Palestinians Moving Further From Two-State Solution, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Hamas, the radical Islamic group that has the most ministers in the new Hamas-Fatah unity government, claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that seriously wounded an Israeli civilian working inside Israel near the Gaza Strip on Monday.

On Sunday, Palestinian terrorists launched five rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said - indicating that the formation of a Palestinian unity government may not change much for Israel.

The Palestinians are moving further away from a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a senior Israeli official said after the new Palestinian unity government announced its platform over the weekend.

There can be no two-state solution, Miri Eisen said, until the new unity government recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and expresses a willingness to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Eisen, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman, told journalists in Jerusalem on Monday that the Palestinian pragmatists are moving toward the extremists and not vice-versa.

Analysts also have said that P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whom the U.S. and Israel consider a "moderate" force among Palestinians, has moved closer to Hamas than the other way around.

Israel rejected any contact with the newly formed Palestinian unity government on Sunday, until the unity government accepts the conditions set by the international community.

It will continue to work with P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on issue pertaining security and improving the quality of life for Palestinians. Abbas was elected chairman (president) in separate elections two years ago and is not a minister in the unity government.


The new Palestinian government says it plans to continue its "resistance" -- a euphemism for terrorism. P.A. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Palestinian lawmakers on Saturday that the Palestinians will use "resistance in all its forms."

Ghassan Khatib of Bir Zeit University near the West Bank city of Ramallah said that makes the new Palestinian government the same as all the previous ones.

Khatib, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority government before Hamas came to power, said that even under Abbas, Palestinians believed that they had the right to resist the Israeli "occupation" said Khatib.

In a telephone interview from Ramallah, Khatib said the Palestinians have "different ways" of carrying out their resistance, including non-violent means.

He also argued that the platform of the new "unity" government is relatively moderate and complies with international demands. It reflects Palestinian public opinion "in a large way," Khatib said.

Asked about the firing of rockets at Israel on Sunday, Khatib blamed the attacks on "small factions" who are trying to spoil the new government. He said the new government will try to stop the rocket attacks, but he didn't know if the effort would be successful or not.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, a Palestinian expert and lecturer at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University, said the new unity government is anything but moderate.

It is "very clear that Mahmoud Abbas basically caved in on a lot of things," Widlanski told Cybercast News Service.

The makeup of the government is more than half Hamas ministers and only about a quarter Fatah ministers, he said.

The central agreement between Hamas and Fatah is that they have the right to strike at Israel until they have obtained all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Privately, they also agree that they want all of Israel, too, Widlanski said.

Abbas hints at such ambitions and official Palestinian Authority television says it openly, he added.

The disagreement between Fatah and Hamas is not about Israel, said Widlanski. It is about what Palestinian society will look like in the end - religious, with veiled women walking in the streets, or more secular, he said.

Hamas realizes that it can't do anything without money, and the way to get money is to "cosmetically" form a unity government, he said.

According to Widlanski, the Palestinians "fight terror by defining it differently." They say that they are against violence and against terrorism; what they do against Israel is defined as resistance.

In an opinion piece published on the Israeli internet site YNET on Sunday, Prof. Uzi Arad, former director of Intelligence of Israel's secret service the Mossad wrote that the establishment of the Palestinian unity government points to a "new phase" in the Palestinian struggle, as Abbas has stated.

"Clearly the new government's platform points to a significant political escalation in the Palestinian struggle against Israel," Arad wrote.

"If Israel does not deal with this challenge, international isolation of the Palestinians, enforced until now, is likely to end and even lead to renewal of diplomatic ties between several countries and the newly established government," he said.

This could lead to a let-up in the international pressure on Hamas, he warned.

"If this transpires, it would present a significant achievement on the part of Hamas," Arad wrote.

He noted that since Hamas' rise to power following Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the group has continued to build military might and is now collecting political and international rewards without having to actually modify its policies, Arad said.

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