The Middle East Times (Editorial)
March 10, 2008 - 5:46pm

If you want a clear understanding of the explosive situation in Gaza take a look at a most informative report by the American Task Force on Palestine published last week. The report titled, "What Lies Ahead for Gaza?" is a must read.


The authors of the report point out that Hamas and Israel, "have locked themselves into a logic of progressively increasing violence," that unless stopped will "inevitably" drag the region into a wider-scale conflict. ATFP calls for a policy supporting and strengthening the Palestinian Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad by enabling them to deliver concrete results. It also points to the efforts of trying to pressure Hamas, a policy which is clearly failed.


The problem, states the ATFP report, began to escalate when Hamas ousted Fatah in a bloody coup in June 2007. They characterize "the default situation" between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel "as low intensity confrontations, defined by levels of violence that are politically manageable." That, however, is about to change – and not for the better. As the ATFP report states each flare-up is followed by a progressively worsening pattern, where "each episode is more intense than the previous one."


Despite the ongoing violence and deaths, both Hamas and Israel are treading softly, hard to believe as it may sound. But as each passing day brings the level of violence one notch higher, harsher measures are bound to be applied. So far, says the report by ATFP, both sides have been able to maintain the conflict at "manageable levels." But time plays against restraint, and with each round of violence one can expect the following one to thrust the conflict closer to an eventual wide-scale confrontation.


De-escalation is a first priority if one is to avoid a full confrontation. And as Hamas and Israel are unwilling to talk to each another, a third party should be called into the negotiations. This is the interim short-term solution to the Gaza crisis.


It should be followed by a long-term solution, which "lies in shifting the political balance within the Palestinian polity. A strategy of weakening Hamas can only succeed if it is accompanied by a policy of strengthening the PA." The present Israeli policy of applying collective punishment on Gaza serves only to strengthen Hamas and weaken the Palestinian Authority – producing the exact opposite of the desired results.


In order to relieve the pressure on the residents of Gaza, the Task Force report states: "The most obvious way to demonstrate [the concrete results of negotiations to the Gaza residents] is through re-opening the international crossing out of Gaza into Egypt and Israel under Palestinian Authority control."


Wise advice, but sadly they may be preaching in the desert.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017