ARABS-ISRAEL - Mar 22 - Shaikh Yassin Killed.
A Mar 26 article in The NYT noted: "One engine of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been that the stories each side tells are much more persuasive to itself than to its adversary. That is a reason for the present spike in violence" (as Sharon tries to build support for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and as Hamas works to secure a role governing Gaza once the Israelis leave). "Each side says it wants to show the other that an Israeli withdrawal is evidence of its own strength. Each is more likely to succeed in persuading itself - possibly prompting further violence. Hamas sees a unilateral Israeli withdrawal as a political opportunity". (In the weeks before Israel killed him, Yassin was in talks with other Palestinian factions over how to govern Gaza if the Israelis depart. That was a landmark change for Hamas as the Islamic group always refused a role within the governing Palestinian Authority, PA, regarding it as a creature of the Oslo peace process. Since Sharon is planning to leave Gaza without an agreement, Hamas now feels free to step in and contest some elections. After more than three years of conflict, Palestinian political support in Gaza and the West Bank flows partly from which group can do the most damage to Israel. For Sharon, the proposed withdrawal has political advantages, but it also poses a problem. He is under attack from Israeli hawks as repeating what they believe to be Israel's mistake in withdrawing unilaterally from Lebanon in May 2000. Many Israelis believe that withdrawal undercut Israel's deterrence policy, its prized bulwark against Arab attack, and emboldened Palestinians to begin their uprising four months later. Now, Sharon is alarmed by what he sees as a surge in terrorism. Since Sharon said on Feb. 2 he was "working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza", violence in and around Gaza has escalated. Militants in Gaza stepped up their attacks on Israelis, and the Israeli army stepped up its incursions into Gaza. On Mar 21 Sharon's finance minister and chief right-wing rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered qualified support for the withdrawal plan. But he also invoked Lebanon, warning: "A unilateral withdrawal might motivate terrorists".
After the Mar 22 killing, Sharon told legislators from his Likud faction that because Israel was planning the bold step of a withdrawal, its action against terrorism would have to become tougher. Palestinians says Israel is running from Palestinian resistance). The NYT article said: "That the fight has exacted an appalling cost from Palestinian society - a ruined economy, a culture of death among the young - only reinforces the importance to Palestinians of rejecting Sharon's preferred version. To tell their own tale, Hamas militants now need to unleash devastating attacks on Israel. For Sharon, Israel's killing of Yassin was the start of his next chapter. For Palestinians, it served exactly the same purpose. A child who called in to a Hamas radio station the day after the missile strike declared, 'The assassination of Shaikh Yassin is the assassination of the state of Israel'. Another child called in to say, 'victory is soon'" (The PA in Gaza is close to collapse. It is struggling to meet payrolls and to keep the lights turned on in ministry buildings. Its popularity has faded as Palestinians have come to regard it as incompetent and corrupt. For its part, Hamas has built a network of schools and low-cost health clinics. Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar has been quoted as saying: "We are going to contest municipal elections". He said Hamas would not contest the presidency, held by Arafat, until Israel also withdraws from the West Bank. The NTY article noted that Zahar, who referred to Fatah as "the left wing", bridled when it was suggested that Hamas was a radical group. "Radical?" he said. "We are not radical. Your concept of radical means extremist". He added: "The radical system describes people who lived in the Middle Ages, who prevented science and propped up the church at the expense of the poor people. This does not apply in our life".
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat Recorder|
|Date:||Mar 27, 2004|
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