President Obama met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday. The meeting had been originally scheduled to discuss the Middle East peace process but instead focused on the Israeli blockade of Gaza to which the president said, "The situation in Gaza is inherently unstable."
Interestingly, the president pledged some "$400 million in aid for housing, school construction and business development in the Palestinian territories," which of course includes Gaza. The State Department said, "The aid would be distributed through organizations performing the relief work,"because Hamas, the Palestinian organization that controls Gaza is considered a terrorist organization. Abbas said, "He sees it as an encouraging sign for Gaza and the West Bank."
But the fact of the matter this meeting was little more than a feel good exercise.
Consider the following:
- Abbas has no official standing in Gaza. Not only did his PLO organization lose to Hamas in the polls, they were militarily forced out of Gaza by Hamas shortly thereafter. In what way and in what capacity does he represent the people and the interests of Gaza?
- As to Gaza itself, with the Israeli blockade in place, entry overland from Israel into Gaza restricted by armed checkpoints and Egypt unwilling to open its border with Gaza (beyond a temporary opening from time to time to ease the internal pressure and suffering of the Gaza people) and with Hamas politically in charge (and not consulted), how is this U.S. pledged aid supposed to be "magically" distributed to people of Gaza?
- How can there be a peace process or the possibility of a two state solution (that of course must include Gaza) without bringing Hamas, politically in control of Gaza, to the bargaining table? Yes Hamas is labeled as a terrorist organization, is not recognized as legitimate outside the Arab world and does not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel. But what of the orthodox Jews that seize lands of the Palestinians in the West Bank (and previously in Gaza before the Israeli unilateral withdrawal in 2005)? They don't recognize the rights of the Palestinians who have owned and inhabited these lands for generations and well over millennia. So these issues of "recognition," who is a "terrorist", which entity is "legitimate" are all canards that prevent any possibility of a political solution and remain an intractable morass.
Prior to the time when "terrorists, terrorism and insurgents" became the popular lexicon for these people, they were called "freedom fighters", rebels, guerillas fighting against what they saw as the oppression exercised over them to which they were determined to resist and overthrow.
Lest we forget our own legacy, at the time of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, the signers were considered "traitors" by the British, "seditionists" who would be subject to hanging. To the colonists they were "patriots", determined to overthrow the yoke of their colonial indenture. Today they would be labeled "terrorists".
Ultimately, a lasting political solution occurs when ALL the entities engaged in a conflict are brought to the table and an agreement is hammered out. "Terrorists" or "freedom fighters" then become the "negotiators, diplomats and political leaders" of the newly established and legally recognized government.
The Israeli's know this (or perhaps they have conveniently forgotten their own history). Once they were oppressed Zionist "freedom fighters", fighting for their own freedom against the British and their occupation of Palestine and the Transjordan (from which was carved out the modern State of Israel). Now they are the occupiers and oppressors of the Palestinians and Hamas who oppose them. The tables have turned.
Eventually if there is to be any hope of a lasting peace, Israel will decide to negotiate with all that oppose them or continued conflict (terrorism) is all but assured.