Battles between the two main Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fatah, erupted earlier this month resulting in a divided state. The Gaza Strip is now under control of Hamas and the West Bank by Fatah. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the unity government where Hamas held a majority of seats in Parliament and appointed a new emergency government. Hamas leaders rejected his actions as a violation of law. Which government is legitimate? Should the Palestinians proceed as two separate states? Is this a defeat for Fatah and a victory for Hamas? Can the Gaza Strip survive under exclusive Hamas control?
The U.S., European Union (EU), United Nations and Russia have expressed support for Abbas. Some Israeli policy experts argue that the political division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip has created potential for moving forward with a new, Fatah-dominated government. Hamas, labeled by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, refuses to recognize Israel as a state. Already the U.S., EU and Israel are negotiating the end of an aid embargo on the West Bank while continuing the boycott affecting 1.5 million in the impoverished Gaza Strip. The funds, over $500 million in customs and tax revenuescollected by Israel for the Palestinians, have been withheld after elections last year when Hamas was voted into power. Should separate policies be established by foreign governments for the West Bank and Gaza? Has the fallout between Hamas and Fatah destroyed peace hopes throughout the region or created new possibilities?
How relevant are the actions of the U.S.? Critics contend that the backing of oppressive Israeli policies by the U.S. precipitated the impending civil war. Some argue that we must honor the results of the democratic process. Others say it is the lack of a strong U.S. presence in the Gaza that has lead to the current conflict. What role should the U.S. ultimately play?
How will the Palestinians resolve the fundamental political question of how to seek peace with Israel? How will this conflict affect other troubled parts of the region? Is the current conflict simply a setback to forming a Palestinian state or has it irreparably ended the process?
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.