Not Israel's Policemen

[Ha'aretz ] Alexander Yakobson - Hamas in Gaza is currently interested in a lull. The rocket fire targeting Israel is perpetrated by armed groups refusing to accept Hamas authority - including Fatah operatives. Hamas leaders have spoken out vehemently against the rocket fire, but they have also stated repeatedly that Hamas will not function as Israel's policeman or turn its weapons on other Palestinian groups to defend Israel's security. Such a government has no chance of "convincing" those groups to obey. This slogan - we won't be Israel's policemen - was adopted by Fatah in the early days of the Palestinian Authority and, more than anything else, this is what decided the fate of the Oslo process. The PA never made a systematic effort to disarm the militant groups or impose the basic rule without which no government can exist: a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. From Israel's perspective, this slogan disparages the principle of land for peace, since it promises that as long as Israel cedes land, it will get less peace - and that's regardless of the will of the Palestinian leadership. Mahmoud Abbas has openly and courageously denounced the terror attacks and the armed struggle against Israel. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity, because such comments did nothing to improve his popularity when the prevailing assumption among Palestinians in the territories was that a few exploding buses would topple Israeli society. But even Abbas stuck to the approach that it was permissible to try to persuade those attacking Israel, but that the government should not confront them and certainly should not fight them - because after all, "we're not Israel's policemen." Indeed, the Palestinian government should not be Israel's policeman. It should act against terrorism for its own reasons. It is hard to imagine a situation in which the operation of a collection of gangs would be in its interest. The Palestinian unwillingness to do so is not just a matter of weakness, but is also connected to Israel's lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public. The primary issue is whether there will be a Palestinian leadership, whatever its ideology, that operates as a national leadership and as a government - one that polices itself. The writer is a senior lecturer in the Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

2008-07-14 01:00:00

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