The Middle East crisis stems in part from Israel’s determination to destroy Palestine’s democratically elected Hamas government. For years most Palestinians supported the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its leading component Fatah. But this year people voted decisively for the Islamist Hamas.
Hamas’s victory, like the outbreak of the second intifada (or uprising) in September 2000, can only be understood in the light of the complete failure of the “peace process” of the 1990s to deliver any reforms to the Palestinian people, let alone a state.
The peace process was Israel’s reaction to the first Intifada (1987-92). Israel was forced to the negotiating table, and the signing of the Oslo accords (1993) raised hopes. But things grew steadily worse.
Construction of illegal Israeli settlements continued during the “peace process”. Between 1994 and 2000, Israel confiscated 35,000 acres of Arab land in the West Bank. Today roughly 400,000 Israeli setters live on land expropriated from Palestinians.
Under Oslo, control granted to the Palestinian Authority in the autonomous areas remained limited - the scope of Palestinian control amounted to no more than that exercised by a local authority.
The period of Oslo witnessed a catastrophic decline in the Palestinian economy, causing a collapse of living standards.
The basic reason was Israel’s closure policy, which banned the movement of Palestinian labour and goods. Checkpoints and Israel’s apartheid wall surround Palestinian communities. The accords said nothing about justice for the five million Palestinian refugees.
At the Camp David talks in July 2000, Israel was praised for its “generous offer” to the Palestinians. That offer was several areas, surrounded by Israeli settlements and military bases, and split up by the 400 kilometres of settler-only roads.
The Occupied Territories were to be carved up into disconnected areas without independent borders, creating a series of separate homelands under Israel’s thumb.