Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israelis ‘trying to bring down Hamas government’

As though there was ever any doubt, Israel's vengeful response to last week's embarrassing Palestinian assault on an Israeli army position underlines that any semblance of Palestinian independence is a delusion. Last year's "withdrawal" from Gaza was no more than a shell game intended to erase the appearance but not the reality of Israeli occupation in both the West Bank and Gaza.
What Israel, backed by the USA and less enthusiastically by Europe, has demanded of Hamas is that it lend its approval to the effectively defunct Oslo accords, accept Israel's legitimacy and accept the legitimacy of Israel's continuing occupation. Although Hamas refused these demands, it continued to support a ceasefire that had been in place for more than a year. Israel, in part provoked by erratic rocket fire from the Gaza and but also simply unwilling to suspend its longstanding campaign of assassination against Palestinian opponents, made it politically untenable for Hamas to continue to adhere to the ceasefire, especially given the large number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israel. These civilian deaths elicited nothing more than an occasional casual nod of regret by an Israeli spokesperson who reflexively placed the ultimate responsibility on Hamas.
Meantime, during the present crisis, ostensibly designed by Ehud Olmert to win the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, we hear insipid and toothless comments from USG spokespeople calling on Israel to give diplomacy time. It would be more impressive if these same flacks were also reminding the press that Israel has failed to live up to the commitments that it made to Condie Rice last fall, but that would conflict with Washington's campaign to topple Hamas from power. Would it not be ironic if Hamas ended up with more not less support after being under siege from Israel, starved of funds by the US and the EU? / In depth - Israelis ‘trying to bring down Hamas government’: "Of the 64 Hamas members detained in overnight raids, 38 have seats in the 132-member PLC, including eight ministers, said Mr Khreishe. The escalating crisis will have an obvious impact on the functioning of ministries whose heads have been detained, further undermining a government that has faced severe financial pressure.

Among the detainees were Omar Abdel Razek, the finance minister, Khaled Abu Arfeh, the Jerusalem affairs minister, and Naef Rajoub, the brother of senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub. All the detentions were carried out in the occupied West Bank, where Israel maintains a large military presence.

Israel insisted it would not have taken the Hamas members had it not been for the kidnap of Corporal Gilad Shalit on Sunday in an operation in which Hamas participated.

At the same time, however, the Israeli government denied that it was holding the officials as bargaining chips for his release. “We are responding,” said the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Mark Regev, about the detention of Hamas members. “There was a period when they held back from terror and we left them alone. But over the last few weeks they have returned to their traditional way of doing things.”"

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