With the crisis unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is in jeopardy, Palestinian and Israeli progressives fear. The Hamas military takeover of Gaza created an open Palestinian rupture, further dividing the hoped-for Palestinian state. The explosion, many say, is the product of a decade of Israeli refusal to negotiate with the internationally recognized Palestinian leadership. It is seen as the disastrous result of Bush’s refusal to promote a negotiated settlement and the U.S. administration’s green-lighting of Israeli militarism.

The Israeli group Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) said in a June 16 statement, “Three months ago, we had the chance of talking to the Palestinian national unity government, and through it to all the factions and parties active in the Palestinian public, on the basis of the peace initiative adopted by the Arab League.

“A visible advance towards peace and an end to the occupation could have strengthened those Palestinians who seek a political solution,” Gush Shalom continued. “Both the suffering of the Israelis in Sderot and the death and destruction of the internal fighting in Gaza might have been avoided.”

Instead, the Israeli government “has engaged in open and blunt efforts to foment civil war among the Palestinians,” the group declared. “Those who push their neighbors to civil war cannot avoid responsibility.”

Tamar Gozansky, an Israeli Communist Party leader and former Knesset member, said Israeli policy for the past 15 years “was driving to this result” — making the West Bank and Gaza into “two separate entities so they can put more and more settlements in the West Bank.”

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, now in a coma, was an architect of this policy. “Sharon is unconscious, but his policy is very conscious,” Gozansky said by phone from Tel Aviv.

Right-wing forces in Israel are trying to use the Gaza crisis to convince the public “that there is no reason to give up even one centimeter” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, she said.

Referring to the U.S./Israeli flurry of support for Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen, Gozansky commented, “Now they want to support Abu Mazen. When he had more power they did everything to destroy him.”

Hanna Amireh, a leader of the Palestinian People’s Party, called the Hamas military takeover in Gaza a “coup d’état” against the legitimate Palestinian authority, and said the action “gave Israel the chance to treat Gaza as a prison.”

“Israel’s policy of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank has gotten a push by this military insurgence,” Amireh said in a phone interview from the West Bank. “Israel is now closing up Gaza completely.”

News reports indicate a growing humanitarian crisis in the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip, with Israel putting a chokehold on food, medical supplies and people seeking to pass through the one Israeli-Gaza crossing point.

“Now Israel is talking about a ‘West Bank model,’” completely splitting off the West Bank from Gaza, Amireh said. “We should be very cautious about this.”

There should be one Palestinian Authority incorporating both Gaza and the West Bank, he said. “What Hamas has done is very serious. They should retreat, or the separation will continue.”

The Palestinian People’s Party (Communist Party), along with Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have been key components of the PLO. Amireh, a member of the PPP Political Bureau and the PLO Executive Committee, said it was essential to “strengthen relations within the PLO.”

“We are trying to support Abbas, while criticizing Fatah for shortcomings,” he said.

Hamas’ insistence on “negating all past PLO agreements” has undermined efforts “to build a national project for a national state,” Amireh said. “We think we should defend the program of a two-state solution.”

Palestinians “don’t look positively” on U.S. and Israeli support for Abbas, but the people are also expecting results, said Amireh. In the West Bank their attitude is, “Now that Hamas is out, show us what you are going to give us,” he said.

Gush Shalom founder and former Knesset member Uri Avnery wrote last week, “If the leaders in Washington and Jerusalem had indeed been interested in peace, they would have hastened to sign a peace agreement with Abbas” long ago. Instead, they “rebuffed him on every concrete issue,” not allowing him “even the slightest and most miserable achievement.”

Israeli leaders were “overjoyed” by the Hamas election victory in 2006, said Avnery. They wanted to undermine Abbas, “because his stated position made it harder to justify their refusal to enter substantive negotiations.”

“Our government has worked for years to destroy Fatah, in order to avoid the need to negotiate an agreement that would inevitably lead to the withdrawal from the occupied territories and the settlements there.”

In a statement issued last weekend, the Israeli Communist Party assailed “the Israeli government policy of force and isolation, promoting despair. This one-sided policy bears a huge responsibility for the disaster in Gaza.”

The party emphasized its call for a two-state solution, and demanded that Israel open real political negotiations with the PLO.

Susan Webb (suewebb @pww.org) recently attended the congress of the Communist Party of Israel.


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.