Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Little Civil War Now and Then Is A Good Thing

To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, and as I've written about before, it may be time for the Palestinians to undergo a civil war. It is both painful and depressing to suggest that the Palestinians, who have already suffered so much, go through what would no doubt be a bloody and brutual struggle for the soul and political soul of their nation. But the alternative is worse.

According to the International Crisis Group, the Palestinians are moving towards civil war. Most observers see a civil war as a bad thing, but I'm not so sure. One of the critical problems faced by the Palestinians is the lack of a monopoly of force in the hands of the government. Neither Fatah nor Hamas is capable of controlling the militias of the other side, meaning that while one party is trying to govern, the other is undermining that governance. Such a situation is intolerable for any state, let alone one trying to negotiate with an occupier for its independence.

Neither party, when in power, was willing to risk civil war by confronting the militias and consolidating power in the hands of the government. Now, Fatah-led militias are attacking and destroying government buildings in protest of Hamas. When and if Fatah comes back into power, there is no doubt that Hamas and other Islamic parties, will use their militias to undermine any negotiations with Israel, if not attack Fatah directly.

The proposed referendum on the "prisoners' plan" is a good start, but if the Palestinians want to have anything remotely resembling good governance the time has come to eliminate the competing militias. Nothing good will come to the Palestinian people, whether from without or within, until that happens.

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