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A Splintered Region
Israeli assault on Hamas raises dilemmas for its neighbors
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-09 12:57 (KST)   
The Israeli Gazan operation has exposed a fragile region splintered by deep divisions between Arab moderates and Islamic fundamentalists.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey and the Palestinian Authority (PA), respectively are the parties immediately affected by the Israeli assault on Hamas' stronghold in Gaza. Their leaders at first appeared to acquiesce in the massive Israeli bombing of Hamas' military installations and government offices.

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Few tears apparently were shed at the punitive retaliation railed on Hamas for its persistent missile attacks into bordering Israeli towns and communities. This was in breach of the cease-fire which they fatally decided not to renew last month. An Israeli thrashing, they may have hoped, would reduce Hamas to its true size, lower its popularity with their local fundamentalist groups and weaken it as a forward Iranian base threatening their regional interests.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas who had blamed Hamas for inciting the Israelis by repeated missile attacks in violation of the cease-fire does not represent and cannot speak for the Gazans after his Fatah party had been violently evicted. Government chaos now reigns there.

Abbas's Presidency ends Jan. 9. There is no successor and no date for presidential elections. The Annapolis peace process is frozen and maybe dead. The West Bank is shrouded in political uncertainty and its future relations with the Gaza Strip are obscure.

Jordan faces a fourth wave of refugees since 1948 as the vision of a two state solution recedes in the aftermath of the war. The warring Fatah and Hamas factions were far from being reconciled before the Israeli invasion. With the cessation of hostilities many Gazans may see their future in Jordan.

The Hashemite Kingdom already absorbed two earlier waves of Palestinian refugees (1948 and 1967) and two waves of Iraqi refugees (after the 1991Gulf War and the American invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003). A third wave of Palestinian refugees could tilt the demographic balance in Jordan in favor of a Palestinian majority that can potentially challenge the ruling Beduin elite and the future of the monarchy.

Violent demonstrations across Jordan have been led by Islamic elements protesting the fighting in Gaza which to date has claimed the lives of 763 civilians and 3,700 injured among them 650 children say Palestinian sources. King Abdullah is very worried by their direction. He dismissed his Army Intelligence Chief whom he claimed had pro-Hamas sympathies and last week the Speaker of the Jordanian Parliament demanded that his country sever ties with Israel.

In a briefing to foreign journalists on the regional fallout former Israeli Ambassador in Jordan Oded Eran warned that "the Jordanian-Israeli relationship is at risk" if hostilities in Gaza lead to total government anarchy or a renewed Israeli occupation.

Turkey, which has been acting as go-between Israel and Syria and hoped to play a significant role in the Annapolis-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stands to lose its assumed role of regional mediator to the incoming Obama Administration in Washington. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan needed no pressure from a seething street fanned by Islamic-led demonstrations to vent his anger by accusing Israel of mass genocide in Gaza.His noted anti-Israel statements have not prevented Ankara and Jerusalem from maintaining close and friendly military and economic ties, but this relationship too could now be endangered by a Turkish leader peeved by the imminent downturn of events, Eran said.

Egypt is pivotal to any border arrangements along the 15 kilometer Philadephi boundary separating Egypt from Gaza which the Israelis vacated in the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The Rafah border crossing to northern Sinai is the only direct Palestinian exit to the Arab and Muslim world. The Palestinians insist that they be a party in its administration and that Rafah and the border crossings with Israel be permanently reopened.

President Hosni Mubarek was harshly accused amidst mass demonstrations in Cairo by Hamas and his country's Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood of colluding with Israel's military operation by keeping the Rafah border closed.

The Israelis say Egypt cannot renounce its responsibility in preventing illegal arms trafficking across its Sinai border. Entry to the tunnels must be blocked and the entire border route effectively monitored to prevent renewed arms smuggling to Gazan terrorist organizations.

They also stipulate that a cease-fire must end Palestinian missile and rocket fire into Israel and puts in place an agreed international mechanism to administer the Rafah border crossing and curb the passage of all illegal arms between Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

A draft United Nations Security Council Resolution for cease-fire was submitted Thursday afternoon by the US, France and Britain. It does not call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, but "stresses the urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire."

It also expresses "grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation in Gaza and southern Israel," and the "resulting civilian casualties since the failure to extend the period of calm and the firing of rockets into Israel followed by Israeli military operations."


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Should Israel implement a cease-fire in Gaza?  (2009-01-02 ~ 2009-01-26)
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©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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