Wednesday, October 05, 2005


A Palestinian Civil War?

People have been saying that it's coming for a while now. (Steven Den Beste saw it coming years ago.) But this seems pretty clear:
The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, was today ordered to form a new government amid concerns over mounting militant violence.

The Palestinian parliament voted 43-5 for Mr Abbas to reshuffle his government within two weeks. It had initially planned to vote on a no confidence motion against the government, but the vote was replaced by the speaker's proposal.
Sounds pretty civilized so far, doesn't it? Parliamentary votes of no-confidence in the government might be a bit extreme, but they happen in Britain (and certainly in Israel), among other parliamentary democracies.

But here it starts to get a little out of hand:
The MPs voted after a nine-member committee presented a special report on the deteriorating security situation, singling out the interior minister, Nasser Yousef, who is in charge of the security forces, for criticism.

The report said Palestinian police had done little to control the chaos in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, adding: "The government failed to put an end to the deterioration."

Earlier, around two dozen Palestinian policemen broke into the parliament building and fired into the air to protest about the apparent humiliation Hamas militant attacks were causing them.
That sure sounds like a deteriorating situation to me. (Using bullets to get the parliament's attention? Not good. And if the gunmen don't get what they want -- likely, since they're protesting their own unwillingness to do their jobs -- what will they do next? Shoot to kill, but aim only at low-ranking assistant ministers? There's nowhere reasonable for them to go from here.)

And it doesn't get any better:
Yesterday, Hamas gunmen attacked a police station in Gaza City with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. There were also clashes between police and Hamas militants in the nearby Shati refugee camp, during which the camp's deputy police chief, Ali Makawi, was killed.

The clashes - the fiercest internal fighting since 1966 - raged for around six hours, subsiding at around midnight only after Egyptian mediators stepped in.
For perspective: the Palestine Liberation Organization (direct predecessor of the current Palestinian Authority) was founded in 1964. In other words, in terms of Palestinians fighting each other, it's never been worse than it is right now.
"Yesterday, we did not have enough bullets," one of the protesting policemen said today. "We had nothing to protect ourselves.

"Give us as least bullets to protect people and to protect our stations. Our commander died in front of us, and we were running out of bullets."

Here's another account of the same sequence of events, "from the horse's mouth" as it were, with some more detail:
Sunday's clashes raged for about six hours, and subsided only around midnight Sunday, after Egyptian mediators stepped in.

"We will not remain silent in the face of this," President Abbas told reporters at his Gaza City office. "This mob behavior, this chaos must end."

He said the PNA is ready to use all means to prevent the violence.

"We are ready to use all means in order to bar and end the public display of weapons," Abbas said.
He's said that before, and been reluctant to take Hamas on directly, even knowing that a civil war was brewing while he dithered. Perhaps he truly means it this time, but I doubt it.
"What is happening is chaos and irresponsible," Abbas said on Palestinian television on Monday.

"People are saying this is a test for a Palestinian state. If we continue on this path these people will say we don't deserve one."
Too late. Many of us have been saying that for years.

The Palestinians have had many problems over the years, and certainly some of them came from the outside. But it was their decision, no one else's, to pursue the course of terror. Somehow they believed that, if they could achieve their aims by terror, they could then build a Palestinian state somehow divorced of that terror and its trappings.

They, of all people, should have understood that it doesn't work that way. As they repeatedly pointed out (and demonstrated) to the world, every time a concession is made to them in the face of terror, they interpret it as a sign that terror works. And if terror succeeded, in their eyes, in getting them a Judenrein Gaza Strip, then why should anyone stop? Why should such a successful tactic be abandoned?

People tend to continue to do what works for them. And the terror leaders, having created an entire generation of Palestinians that know hardly anything but terror -- children who aspire to blow themselves up in public, parents who happily send their children off to die, government-supported public TV openly recruiting ever more suicide bombers -- well, what should you expect such people to do, when the only ones in authority over them are Palestinians?

(It's worth pointing out that terror organizations can reform themselves. Menachem Begin's Etzel, or Irgun Tzva'i Leumi -- called Irgun by its members -- was arguably not a terror organization, since it directed its attacks against military targets, not civilians; but they did use guerilla tactics. And when David Ben-Gurion -- truly a "little lion" in name and in fact -- made it crystal-clear that there could be only one Israeli government and only one Israeli militia, Begin did the correct thing, difficult though it must have been -- he ordered Irgun members to turn in their weapons and join the official Israeli Army, while Irgun transformed itself into a political party, called Herut at the time, later to become Likud. And Begin sat in the opposition for thirty years, while Ben-Gurion refused even to address him by name. But the Likud won parliamentary control in 1977, and Begin became Prime Minister of Israel.

(Arafat could have done this at any time. He didn't do it, thereby showing that he was never half the man Begin was, to say nothing of Ben-Gurion. And the Palestinian people will continue to suffer because of Arafat's enduring legacy. As some have pointed out, truly the Palestinian people had no greater enemy than him.)

I suspect it's only a matter of time before a Palestinian, wearing a suicide belt, walks into a Palestinian government office, or session of parliament, and blows himself up. And then, all hell will break loose.

(hat tip: Roger L. Simon.)


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