Gaza’s slow slide into the network of weapons smuggling tunnels built under its foundations has now turned into a headlong rush into hell.
Heavily armed factions now battle each other in a deadly civil war for political power and control of the billions of dollars in humanitarian aid and reconstruction funds flowing into the territory by courtesy of the European Union and the United Nations.
200 people have been killed and almost 2000 injured so far this year as a result of this rapidly escalating internecine violence that now has sucked Israel in once again, as scores of Kassam rockets continue to be fired indiscriminately into civilian centres in Israel from a well stocked arsenal smuggled into Gaza through Egypt.
Israel’s unilateral evacuation from Gaza in August 2005 was intended to signal Israel’s readiness to find a peaceful solution to competing claims by Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank.
Instead we are now witnesses to scenes of death and violence in Gaza that no one could have predicted when the world’s broadcasting networks showed their images of thousands of distressed and anguished Israeli soldiers and police removing 7000 crying and in some cases defiant Jews from their homes and livelihoods after a presence of almost forty years.
Certainly the trashing and eradication of the Jewish presence in Gaza, the continued violence against the Jewish State and the hatred and incitement of Gaza’s civilian population against Jews were foreseen by many, as Israel was roundly criticised in many quarters for acting unilaterally as it did.
But no one could have reasonably expected to see Arab killing Arab in Gaza in an unending cycle of violence over the past twelve months.
It is pointless to assign blame for Gaza’s failure to grasp the baton handed to the Palestinian Authority by Israel. Others can and will no doubt do so as the situation continues to worsen.
However, having dropped the baton and allowed Gaza to reach the stage of lawlessness it now has, the Authority has shown itself to be a lame duck without any power or authority to conclude any kind of agreement with Israel on Gaza and the West Bank.
The late Abba Eban, Israel’s first Ambassador to the United Nations, famously said in 1973:
“The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”
The Palestinian Authority has become the latest example of that most apposite statement.
As the carnage continues, those supporters of the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas - the 22 Arab League States, America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - look on and, as usual, wring their hands, say a lot, but as usual do nothing to stop it.
They continue to promote and cling to the two state solution formulated by them in 2002 and 2003 that remain unimplemented in even the slightest detail and have no prospects of ever being successfully concluded - as if nothing has happened in the meantime.
They place their faith in Abbas being able to deliver the Palestinians on those completely flawed plans - totally ignoring the shift in power caused by the ascension of Hamas in Gaza that calls for Israel’s total destruction.
They still fail to understand that the only negotiating address in Gaza today is Prime Minister Haniyeh of Hamas. No amount of fiction or make believe by the Arab League, the Quartet or Israel for that matter can possibly change that current reality.
Abbas does not have enough power to fill his fountain pen let alone put his signature on any agreement with Israel that he can enforce.
Perhaps as they ponder their next step the Arab League and the Quartet should carefully heed the less quoted words of Abba Eban which appeared in Newsweek on 2 December 1974:
“But in addition to warnings about the futility of war should we not reflect together on the availability of peace? Palestine comes into modern history as a region extending on both sides of the Jordan, comprising the present sovereign territories of Israel and Jordan and the administered areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Of this original Palestine, 80 per cent became an exclusively Arab domain through the separation of Transjordan from Palestine.”
Jordan has always been and still continues to be the only negotiating address for anyone interested in seeking a solution to the West Bank and Gaza between Israel and the Arabs.
Division of the West Bank and Gaza between Jordan and Israel is the only possible outcome that has any reasonable prospect of success.
In an interview published in the Khaleej Times on 11 October 2006, King Abdullah of Jordan declared:
“I really think that by the first half of 2007 we might wake up to reality and realise that the two-state solution is no longer attainable, and then what?”
Until the Arab League and the Quartet understand and act on this reality, the graveyard will continue to grow in Gaza and ultimately and unfortunately extend to the graveyards in the West Bank and Israel.