JERUSALEM - The catastrophic infighting that has so far left scores of dead and hundreds of wounded by Palestinian hands in the Gaza Strip, is a deadly signal that the Mecca agreement and national unity government are in the last throes of falling apart.
Though the fighting has now waned, neither Fatah nor Hamas have been able to prevent the almost daily clashes between their movements. The Palestinian public in Gaza is being terrorized by the lawlessness, the shootings and killings that are turning Gaza into another Baghdad. Here it is not Shi'a against Sunni, but Hamas against Fatah, and the slide toward total chaos is perhaps unstoppable.
The abundance of weapons, militias, clans and warring movements have made it impossible to bring order and the rule of law; too many factors, internal and external, including the occupation, are involved in stirring the rivalries and drastic action must be applied urgently or the Palestinian people will become involved in a civil war in Gaza that will eventually spread into the West Bank.
As has been said all along, if Israel does not agree to extend its original ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank caused by the Israeli army will continue to lead to retaliation by Palestinians in Gaza, and the cycle of violence will continue to expand.
To stop the bloodshed, to stop the further undermining of the region, the international community - and specifically the Quartet, with the participation and acquiescence of Israel and the Arab League, on behalf of the Arab countries, must undertake the following process:
The UN Security Council should convene in order to denounce the deterioration of security in the Occupied Territories, call on Israel and the Arab League to accept and to implement a Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli troop withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the placement of Arab League troops in the Palestinian Authority (PA); for Israel to comply these troops must come from the two Arab countries that have peace treaties or diplomatic relations with Israel, namely Egypt and Jordan.
In order to also respect Palestinian sensitivities regarding their struggle for self-determination and independence, the Arab League heads of state or foreign ministers, in implementing this Security Council resolution, must meet to accept a temporary mandate, where Arab troops will replace Israeli troops to stop all sorts of violence, internally, as well as that which involves Israel.
All the armed elements in the PA, clans, families, militias, Fatah and Hamas, even the PA security forces, should be disarmed, and only the Arab troops should be allowed to carry arms to implement law and order and establish total security. Eventually, a non-factional Palestinian force, professionally trained, should be reconstituted to takeover the security role.
The interim Arab force could be in place for 5 or even 10 years, with its first mission being to stop all kinds of violence. Then a process of rebuilding the local and national political infrastructure could begin, parallel to the process of negotiating a regional settlement that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the return of the Golan Heights and any disputed Lebanese areas to their rightful countries.
At this sad juncture, it has become apparent that neither Hamas nor Fatah, alone or combined, have learned the political art of working together in a coalition to serve their public, the Palestinian people. Party politics and the struggle over power have led to killings and almost to civil war. The only way to prevent total disaster is for the Arab nations, with the backing of the UN and acquiescence of Israel, to work together in order to prevent the growing snowball of violence from spreading all across the region.
* Hanna Siniora is the Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: Ynetnews.com, 18 May 2007, www.ynetnews.com
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