January 3, 2008:
Hamas control of Gaza
is increasingly threatened by pro-Fatah clans that refuse to surrender. The
pro-Fatah groups don't like the strict Islamic lifestyle rules Hamas wants to
impose, and is eager to regain the economic opportunities (a cut of the foreign
aid) they had when Fatah was in charge. All these are worth fighting for, so
the fighting continues, causing several dozen casualties a week.
Osama Bin Laden joined in supporting
the Palestinian cause, by issuing an audiotape urging al Qaeda members and
supporters to shift their efforts to Palestine. Al Qaeda has admitted defeat in
Iraq, and is encountering stiff opposition in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Operations aren't going too well in North Africa, so that leaves Israel.
However, Israel has developed the most effective counter-terror tactics in the
world. There was only one successful Palestinian terrorist attack inside Israel
last year. All Palestinian attacks left 13 Israelis dead in 2007. Severn of
those were civilians, one killed by a suicide bomber, the rest by rockets and
gunfire. For that, 373 Palestinians died (a third of them civilian bystanders)
from Israeli attacks (often missiles fired from aircraft at Palestinian
terrorists pointed out by Palestinian informers.) Meanwhile, 344 Palestinians
died fighting other Palestinians in 2007. Al Qaeda is going to have a tough
time turning this around.
Most Palestinians admit that their "Second
Intifada (struggle)" has been a failure. Begun in 2000, as a ploy to obtain
better peace terms with the Israelis, it led to nearly 6,000 deaths since then
(80 percent of them Palestinians). But Palestinian extremists, like Hamas,
refuse to give up the struggle, and vow to fight to the last Palestinian.
The most successful Palestinian weapon
these days is the home made Kassam rocket, fired from Gaza into thinly
populated southern Israel. Nearly 900 were fired in 2007, and these caused 464
injuries to Israelis. Included in this number are people who suffered psychological
ill effects from being too close to an explosion. Elderly victims have
sometimes had heart attacks under these conditions, but Israel counts those who
received medical attention (usually a sedative and some reassuring words) as
casualties. In 2006, there were nearly 500 Kassams fired and 227 Israeli casualties
(only about ten percent of them serious, very few are fatal). Israel is putting
a lot of money and effort into developing defensive systems that will shoot
down the Kassams. Some of these may enter service this year.
Most Palestinians are now willing to
resume negotiations (interrupted in 2000 by the Intifada), but a substantial
majority of Palestinians want to fight on. The majority of Palestinians would
prefer that Israel simply be destroyed. Because of the Intifada, far fewer Israelis
are willing to give up a lot of make peace with the Palestinians.
For over sixty years, the Palestinians
have been their own worst enemies, and other Arab nations are taking note of
that. The Arab world wants the Palestinians to take whatever deal they can get
and settle down, because there is not a lot of support in the Arab world for
much else. Based on past performance, the Palestinians will likely ignore this
advice and the new realities.