Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Homus and Feta

Sometimes this online journal of mine gets ignored, and just like the Homus and Feta in my fridge, when left alone for too long new cultures start to form. And so it is in the middle east. The political landscape in the occupied territories and israel has vehemently changed - probably for the worse. The tit-for-tat attacks between Hamas and Fatah culminated in an out-right mini civil war. Fatah, the party of the palestinian uniter Yasser Arafat has been vanquished from the gaza strip and Hamas, the islamist caliphate seeking movement has been expelled from the west bank. Not since the 1964 formation of the PLO - an organization meant to serve as an umbrella group uniting all armed palestinian factions in their aimto destroy Israel - has the palestinian cause been so divided. Now, in effect, there are two "occupied territories": one in the West Bank and one in Gaza. The poor people in Gaza, who already live in penury and amidst dialy violence perpetrated by Israel as well as the multplicity of armed gangs, will undoutedly suffer even more as the all the PA money is invested in the West Bank. My prediction for the future is one where west bank arabs obtain more and more autonomy, public services and quality of life, while their bretheren in Gaza starve. Eventually Hamas will lose control in Gaza and the strip will become dominated by the many tribal families which already exert considerable influence. This division may harden to the point that Israel might even be able to make peace with fatah in the west bank but not with the gazans.

Added to this crisis is another one brewing to the north. As the weak Lebanese government struggles to eradicate (albeit unsuccessfully) militant palestinian gunmen in the north of the country, the south of Lebanon is still controlled by enlarge by Hizbullah. Yesterday saw the unwelcome development of 2 rockets being fired from Lebanon into Israel in an unprovoked attack reminscent of the trigger of last summer's war. Hizbullah has denied commiting the violation of the ceasefire signed last August, and the blame for yesterday's attack has been laid on "unnamed" palestinian groups (ie the Al-Fatah, the group fighting the Lebanese army in the north). This pundit is not fully convinced of Hizbullah's innocence. But regardless of who actually perpetrated the attack, the attack itself is inidcative of how hot the tensions are running and how lawless Lebanon is. PM Olmert is able to sit back and say "we will not be dragged into another war with Lebanon" now, but if more rockets fall on Israel the public will demand a response. The defense minister during the last war (Peretz) is gone (after admitting failure in last year's war) and has been replaced by former PM Ehud Barak who commands significantly more respect in military circles. (Note that Barak was the PM who withdrew from Lebanon in 2003. It would be typical of middle-eastern political irony if he were charged with re-invading the country).

The only way out of this situation is to stabalize Lebanon. This cannot happen without the direct cooperation of Syria which will never do so until the Golan heights are returned. Perhaps Israel can kill two birds with one stone: by returning the Golan they may be able to achieve peace with BOTH Lebanon and Syria. By re-posturing themselves to the PA they may be able o make peace with the West Bank which would leave only Gaza left to come in from the cold.


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