The Forty-Year Palestinian Tragedy
Forty years ago, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights after a lightning six-day war that repelled the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Today, ending the occupation of Palestinian territories that began that June seems as distant a dream as ever.
The Somalia-like chaos and civil war that is now unfolding in Gaza as a result of this decades-old stalemate can be blamed partly on ill-conceived Israeli policies, and partly on an American administration that, for six long years, relegated the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace to the bottom of its agenda. But it is misleading to attribute the failure of the Palestinians to develop an orderly system of self-government only to the pernicious effects of Israeli occupation and American policies.
The Palestinian crisis is first and foremost one of leadership. True, Yasser Arafat was not a model democrat, but his charisma and political acumen were crucial for holding all the Palestinian factions together. Now, not even Fatah, Arafat’s own party, can claim to be a coherent organization. Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006 was to a large extent due to Fatah’s fragmentation under Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas.