The weather here in Jerusalem and Gaza is overcast with many a dark cloud. It mirrors what is felt inside by so many Palestinians whose loved ones have been killed or injured by Israel’s army “Warm Winter” campaign against Gaza.

The weather here in Jerusalem and Gaza is overcast with many a dark cloud. It mirrors what is felt inside by so many Palestinians whose loved ones have been killed or injured by Israel’s army “Warm Winter” campaign against Gaza. The 110 Palestinians killed so far since Wednesday February 27th include at least ten children, the youngest a few months old, and an equal number of women. “Warm Winter” continues and it has put all of us Palestinians in a state of shock.

Amidst the rubble of homes, devastated families and destroyed public buildings in Gaza, faith in the peace process has altogether disappeared. What is called the peace process feels so distant from the preoccupations of people in their every day pursuits. Complete control by the Israeli military of the population, the crossing points, the checkpoints, the resources, the siege on Gaza and the separation wall are all reminders that Israel does not have a peace vision but a security vision. To Palestinians what is happening in Gaza nowadays goes to prove that for Israel everything has a security/military response. The same principle applies to the entire Middle East. Political maneuvering for the sake of advancing peace prospects is undertaken by some in the Israeli body politic in order to portray Israel as a peace seeking country. If there is no Israeli military supremacy then there could be no peace. Both politicians and Israeli military believe in the same principle. Israel ’s position and predicament may be reflected accurately by Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

The Israelis are intent on punishing those Palestinians who throw rockets at them. In the process, whether by sheer carelessness or by design they relegate the peace process or what is left of it a secondary negligible place. Since the Annapolis meeting in November, nothing substantial has moved on the ground in the Occupied Territories. The offers made by some in Hamas for a ceasefire with Israel, according to Yossi Beilin, have been rejected outright by the Israeli government. The advancements in the security situation in Nablus, the largest city in the Northern West Bank, which were brought about by the Palestinian police under the guidance of the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have been torpedoed again and again by the Israeli military. Several incursions have taken place into Nablus by Israeli special units which resulted in the killings and arrests of a number of Palestinians who already have turned over their arms to the National Authority. The Israelis, according to one version, do not want the Palestinian government to succeed in bringing law and order to areas under its control since this would entail reciprocal Israeli measures according to the first stage of the Road Map. (For a reading of the Road Map see http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/22520.htm).

Despondency has become a hallmark of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation and absence of felt progress towards peace. This despondency reaches all levels of Palestinian life and society. Speaking to politicians and public figures in Ramallah on Saturday, March 1st, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority said: “It is unthinkable that Israel’s reaction to Palestinian rocket attacks – which we condemn – can be so terrible and frightening," adding that the attacks were targeting "innocent women, children and old people.” He later ordered a cessation of negotiations and contacts with Israel at all levels until the Gaza aggression is over. The despondency does not bode well not simply to peace prospects but to the viability and continuity of the Palestinian National Authority itself. Something needs to give on the political front but judging from the situation today, there is serious doubt that we will see a major positive transformation in Israeli-Palestinian relations by the end of 2008.

Strategies that aim at weakening parties seen uncooperative in regional and global policies may in effect end up strengthening these parties. The choice to all of us here is whether we want to go forward together or to continue fighting with each other. The solution will never come by military victory and or insistence on armed struggle until the bitter end. In order to advance towards a political solution there is a need to declare an immediate truce in the Gaza Strip whereby all military operations and actions will stop. Side by side there is also need to lift the siege on Gaza and to open border crossing points for normal movement of people. On the Palestinian front, there is need for unity and for popular pressure on both larger political factions, Hamas and Fatah, to come together. With Palestinian unity and with some sense of normalcy reintroduced into the Gaza Strip, there may be some hope that we can progress with peace negotiations. What our Palestinian people needs most is not more bloodshed and devastation but a society that is governed by law and order that contributes to a semblance of stability and some tangible prosperity. Without this kind of vision, our people and our neighbors will continue to suffer.