While U.S. Senator Hillary was reveling in her March 4th Democratic Party primary victories, another American public servant, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was back in the Middle East trying to mend fences between Israel and the Palestinians following the recent escalation of violence that has left 4 Israelis (including 3 soldiers) and at least 90 Palestinians killed in missile attacks and military actions during the past few weeks.
Rice met with both Palestinian Authorities in Ramallah and Israeli leaders in Jerusalem to try to deal with a situation that is beginning to look more like the character in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, rather than an optimistic solution to an ongoing problem in which there just doesn’t seem to be a solution â€“ at least as long as both Israel and the USA refuse to deal with the Hamas organization in Gaza.
The problem concerning Hamas, and it’s leaders Khaled Mashal ( who sits is Damascus) and former P.A. prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, has gone from bad to worse ever since Hamas won out over Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization in a bloody civil uprising in early 2006. Hamas has been held responsible for firing most of the Qassam and other rockets at Israeli towns and villages; and now more recently at the 120,000 population city of Ashkelon., only 10 kilometers from Gaza’s northern border with Israel.
During Rice’s meeting with Israeli officials, even Rice had to admit that the prospects for peace do not look very good; and despite her boss’s (President George Bush) good intentions, it appears doubtful that a satisfactory solution will be reached before Bush leaves office in January, 2009. During Rice’s meeting with both Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert told Rice that Israeli reprisals against the Palestinians, as well as harsh economic sanctions will cease immediately is the Palestinians cease their rocket and other types of attacks against Israel. It was also said that although agreements were made to resume talks between the factions, no peace agreement can be reached “even in 100 years” unless the Palestinians renounce their aims for “armed struggle” which can only interpreted as the eventual destruction of Israel.
Whatever agreements can be made will not hold water without Hamas’s involvement, and this doesn’t look at all likely â€“ at least in our lifetimes that is. Gaza is in such a sorry state that it is now being said by foreign aid officials who have been working there that the situation of the people is “worse than it was at the time of Israel’s occupation of it in 1967”. More than 80% of the population are not able to survive without aid assistance of food and other basic necessities; and there is a complete breakdown of sewage disposal and fresh water infrastructures.
Condi appears to have left again with nothing more than a hollow promise for continuation of talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It looks like this mess is just one of the problems that will be awaiting the new U.S. president when he or she takes office next January 20th.