A Federation, Not a Divided Land

Article excerpt

PALESTINIANS are divided over how to view the change of power in Israel. The most hard-line view is held by the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which is not a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel. It strongly opposes the peaceful approach the PLO has taken toward Israel.

Hamas, however, represents only a small fraction of the Palestinian people - about the same percentage as the portion of Jewish people that supported the extremist Zionist Irgun organization before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

The PLO itself has two divergent views of the new Israeli government. The radical factions believe that the change in Israel is limited to the "names of politicians" and won't affect policies. They point out that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has taken the unusual step of reserving the Cabinet post of defense minister for himself. In their eyes, this is a strong message to the Palestinians that his iron fist has not softened. They predict that Mr. Rabin will put every effort into crushing the Palestinian intifadah, and then focus on revitalizing the "Jordanian option."

The moderate leaders of the PLO view the return of the Labor Party differently. In a recent interview with CNN, Yasser Arafat said that "the results of the Israeli elections show that the Israeli masses voted for peace rather than war." Mr. Arafat and like-minded Palestinians believe that Labor tends to be more pragmatic than Likud when it comes to Israel's relations with the international community, especially the United States, but just as ideological when it comes to Palestinian self-determination and Israeli security.

Palestinians, in general, view their history with Israel as the history of Labor Party policies, which includes the first settlements and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, many see Rabin's coalition as promising. They feel that if the new prime minister is serious about making peace, he may be best able to win over the Israeli public because of his tough credentials. Labor is coming to power in a totally different world internationally, regionally, and locally than when it last governed 15 years ago. The Soviet Union and Eastern bloc no longer exist. China, Russia, most of Africa, and India have recognized Israel's right to exist. Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt. Zionism, Israel's founding ideology, is no longer considered racism by the United Nations General Assembly.

The intifadah cost Israel politically, economically, and morally because of the harsh policies she has used against it. Iraq, Israel's strongest enemy, was militarily destroyed in the Gulf war. The PLO has given up its goal of total liberation of Palestine from the "Zionist entity." In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist and declared an independent state in the occupied territories. …