After a week exploring the sprawling, gargantuan, carbon dioxide-spewing, yet all too beautiful masterpiece of human society that is New York City with this blog's biggest fan (based solely on site views as diligently reported to me by Google Analytics) Holy Land Peace is back and ready to continue providing my loyal readership with hard-hitting, timely news and analysis of all things peace-related in that sun-parched, ethno-religious melting pot (if the pot was filled only with maple syrup, food coloring and vegetable oil; you can mix them all up but what's the use, they'll all end up separating in the end out of mistrust of the other) I like to call Greater Israel/Historic Palestine/the Holy Land.
Full disclosure: NYC provided a beautiful distraction from the perpetual frustration and soul-crushing disappointment of following Middle East politics and I must admit that I did little to keep up with Holy Land happenings. However, several events are worth briefly noting - though none carry any real, pressing cause for concern. Here is a quick rundown of the week's events:
Al-Qaeda is in the Gaza Strip!?
No, they are not, yet almost every media outlet that covered the bloody firefight between Hamas de facto government forces and the unknown extremist militant Islamic group Jund Ansar Allah alleged or insinuated that the group's very existence indicated that Al-Qaeda had infiltrated the Gaza Strip. The organization has no actual links to Al-Qaeda and appears to be little more than another small, hastily organized group with little influence on Palestinian politics. These groups - of which Palestinian Islamic Jihad is another such one - have been largely kept in check by Hamas, especially since the end of the the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The groups are somewhat inspired by other Islamic militant groups such as Al-Qaeda, holding similar ideology, and are disillusioned by what they view as Hamas' caving to Israeli and American pressure to become more moderate. The group's membership (including it's leadership) was all but wiped out during the Hamas attack on a mosque held by Jund Ansar Allah, an attack which claimed the lives of 28 Palestinians and wounded an additional 120. The real danger here is in spreading the myth that Al-Qaeda groups or foreign fighters have infiltrated the Gaza Strip, an allegation that I am certain will be propagated by those not interested in a real peace process, but instead looking to make permanent the Israeli occupation over the Palestinian territories. Hamas seems to be easily capable of controlling, through violence if necessary, competing Islamist organizations in the Strip and it is important for Western analysts to see a reformed and politicized Hamas as a viable conservative alternative to fundamentalist groups such as Islamic Jihad or Jund Ansar Allah. Consolidating political power and legitimizing its own rule in the Gaza Strip seem to be the current primary goals of Hamas and the Obama administration, Israel, and Fateh should act accordingly and begin attempting to engage Hamas in limited ways to gauge the possibility of including the group in attempts to revive the peace process or rebuild a Palestinian unity government.
Huckabee Holds Extremist Views on the Holy Land
Apparently former Republican presidential hopeful and fundamentalist Christian Mike Huckabee asserted his belief in Greater Israel (meaning Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River - de facto annexation of the Palestinian Territories and their people to Israel). Why this was surprising to so many commentators escapes me. Mike Huckabee's views on Israel are informed almost exclusively by the Bible and his opinions toward the peace process are based on his literal interpretation that the Jewish people must reoccupy the entire Holy Land in order to usher in the second coming of Christ. Huckabee is a fundamentalist and hardly a viable Republican candidate. He does not believe in the two-state solution and never will, his religious belief precludes this. His views are the same as extremist Israeli settlers and Hamas militants: the Holy Land must be either all Jewish or all Muslim, coexistence is heresy. It's best just to write Huckabee's statements off as the ranting of a non-influential anti-peace blowhard. I'm not even going to tag Huckabee in this post.
Shhhhh... September Will Come with a Surprise!
I have little concrete information on this aside from rumors reported by several major media outlets and thus little analysis to share, but it seems the Obama administration is planning to release its preliminary plan and timeline for a new Middle East peace process sometime in September. Haaretz has reported that Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli PM Netanyahu will be meeting Obama in Washington for trilateral talks. More updates as events warrant.