By Alain Gresh
This commentary was published in Le Monde Diplomatique in Its June 2011 Issue
The images of Palestinians massed at Israel’s borders on 15 May represented a dream for some, and a nightmare for others. On the 63rd anniversary of the declaration of the Jewish state and of the nakba (catastrophe) for the many thousands of Palestinians expelled from their homes, demonstrators from Syria (1), Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza converged on the promised land. They were only a few thousand but the world wondered what would happen if millions marched peacefully to the borders and walls next time. These refugees – neglected by the PLO since the 1973 Oslo accords despite having inspired the Palestinian awakening of the 1960s – may have decided to take their future into their own hands.
(2) One argument against Hamas is that it does not recognise Israel. But as historian Zeev Sternhell pointed out, there is a caucus of 39 members of Knesset (out of 120) in the Israeli parliament, including members of Likud, which refuses to give up an inch of “the land of Israel”, and no one in the US or Israel has asked Netanyahu to dismiss these MKs from his coalition. (See “Fatah-Hamas Deal Calls Israel’s Bluff”, The National Interest, Washington, DC, 13 May 2011).
(3) “Egypt to throw open border crossing with Gaza”, Ahram Online, Cairo, 29 April 2011.
(4) “Egypt to open Rafah Crossing”, Ynet, Tel Aviv, 29 April 2011.
(5) David Kirkpatrick, “In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel’s Foes”, The New York Times, 28 April 2011.
(6) Robert Dreyfus, “Obama Gives Major Middle East Speech – But Is the Region Still Listening?”, The Nation, New York, 19 May 2011.
(7) Steven Lee Myers, “Divisions Are Clear as Obama and Netanyahu Discuss Peace”, The New York Times, 20 May 2011.