The National (Editorial)
August 21, 2011 - 12:00am

Thursday’s raid on Israel, by a Palestinian splinter group taking advantage of Egypt’s current inability to police the Sinai Peninsula, was a setback for the cause of Palestinian statehood.

The attackers moved south from Gaza to the region of Eilat on the Red Sea by way of Sinai, which has seen increased violence from militant groups since the collapse of the old regime in Egypt. In the Israeli pursuit of the gunmen, five Egyptian border guards were killed. Eight Israelis died in the raids, and seven attackers.

Egypt, in protest, planned to recall its ambassador to Israel.

As we have noted in this space before, attacks like this one do more harm than good to the Palestinian cause. Considering the world’s deep aversion to anything that smacks of terrorism, such bloodshed can only damage the Palestinians’ long-nurtured plan to win approval at the United Nations, in less than a month, for an independent state.

The attack played into the hands of Israel’s intransigent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who likes to depict Palestinians as murderers. Israel responded to the raid with Gaza air strikes which killed at least 14, raising tensions further. Within Israel, organisers cancelled plans to protest over economic issues, another plus for Mr Netanyahu.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, denied responsibility for the Eilat-area attack. But Israel argues that since Hamas rules Gaza it is responsible for violence coming from there, and must do more to stop such incidences. If Hamas cannot stifle groups launching attacks, what is the point, it asks, of any sort of pact with Hamas?

Yet the list of those who profit from the status quo in the occupied territories is of course headed by Israel itself, which relentlessly pursues its systematic land grab of settlement building. But militant groups are also deeply deluded about how to change the situation.

If that status quo is to change to the advantage of the long-suffering Palestinians, then Hamas – and Fatah – must find a way to rein in, not to say permanently neutralise, groups which are capable, with a dozen rifles and a few small rockets, of changing the temperature of the region’s affairs any time they feel like it.


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