Wed Mar 29th, 2006 at 08:58:22 AM EST
In the last week once again the world has focused its attention on the events taking place in Israel and Palestine. After the success in the January 25 elections in Palestine, Hamas were expected to present the candidates for their new cabinet. At the same time, following the three-month coma of Ariel Sharon, the parliamentary elections were scheduled for March 28 in Israel. However, even in the time of transition of governments in office, the main concern of both Israel and Palestine as well as the rest of the world lies with the peaceful resolution of the dispute over the control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the other diary on the same topic:
Israeli Elections Thread
From the diaries - whataboutbob
In order to quickly assess the Palestinian viewpoint we need to take into consideration the current succession of Hamas to office. On Tuesday, the Palestinian Parliament approved the cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh with 71 to 36 votes. This came as no surprise, since Hamas holds the majority of seats in parliament. What generated more commotion (and at the same time hope) in the West were the statements made by the new Prime Minister. He claimed that "the [new Palestinian] Government won't spare any effort to reach just peace..." Haniyeh also appealed to the UN, the US, Russia, and the EU to aid him and the people in the Middle East in the attempts to reach a peaceful solution. In his speech addressed to the members of Parliament, the new Prime Minister of Palestine also mentioned that disarming Hamas and recognizing the existence of Israel are not options that he or his government would consider. Nevertheless, these two conditions have to be met by Hamas before the party can participate in any peace talks, says Sean McCormack, U.S. State Department spokesperson cited by Voice of America News.
Mark Regev, spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, also approached skeptically Haniyeh's aspirations to "just peace."
The sad fact is that when Hamas speaks about a just peace, it is unfortunately talking about a peace without Israel,
Regev said. Israel's worries, however do not end with the election of a Hamas-led government in Palestine. After the lack of improvement in the medical condition of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, new general elections had to be scheduled. These elections, held on March 28 were also considered a referendum on the future of the West Bank since the platforms of the candidates were rather distinct on the touchy West Bank subject.
The leader of the Kadima Party and current acting Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert supports the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank. On the other hand, Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to maintain a strong right-wing bloc in the new Knesset and prevent Israeli withdrawal. Despite the fact that many viewed these elections as a historical event, the turnout was surprisingly low, with early voting being a mere 21.7 percent, and expected turnout being about 66 percent. The explanations for that vary from candidates' failure to appeal to the voters to reports of homemade rockets being launched by Islamic Jihad in settlements on the borders of the Gaza Strip. Taking into consideration the low turnout on the election day and the percent of undecided voters (22%), we can say that Israel is dangerously close to a deadlock situation on the Palestine question. The split of votes between Kadima, Likud, and the smaller parties might lead to a weak government coalition unable to agree on a common position.
Although we see dynamic changes in the political life of both Israel and Palestine, the sad fact remains that the peaceful resolution we are all seemingly striving for is nowhere in sight. Were we to assess the consequences of the current elections on the situation in the region, we would probably find out they will have no effect whatsoever. The positions of extremism have not deteriorated in any way. In fact, they seem to be improving on the Israeli side as small extreme parties receive larger number of votes. The efforts of the international community to promote faster and more productive peace talks need to be increased, since delaying the problem will only worsen the state of affairs in the Middle East.