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Ira Sharkansky


On Palestinian rockets and 

East Jerusalem ballots, December 26, 2005

By Ira Sharkansky

In case you have not noticed, Palestinians are threatening. Two different groups claim to have developed rockets of increased range, which they indicate they will use if Israel imposes a "no walk, no drive" zone in Northern Gaza. That is the more or less empty area from which rockets have been fired to Israel.
We have a problem.
On the one hand, a widespread conception is that Palestinians intent on violence do what they can to cause harm to Israelis (and often to other Palestinians). They are always at maximum effort. By this view, if they had better rockets, they would already be using them. In connection with this view, Israeli experts say that Palestinian rockets are poor in quality. It is said that 80 percent of them do not make it out of Gaza, and the aim of those that do and those that do not is random. They have injured about as many Palestinians as Israelis. Perhaps more Palestinians than Israelis, insofar as not only do most rockets land somewhere in Gaza, but some of them blow up on the way to the launching site. The Israeli media calls those cases "industrial accidents."
On the other hand, if the Palestinians are telling the truth and actually use more effective rockets, the temptations on Israel will be considerable to do more than shell empty fields, and kill or capture selectively the people who fall into our intelligence net. One contingency plan in the event of missiles fired from the crowded neighborhoods of Gaza is to give residents 12 hours notice, and then shell them. So who will suffer more? Tent makers get ready.
Yet another Palestinian threat, this one coming from ranking officials of the Authority, is to cancel the elections scheduled for late January if Israel does not allow voting in East Jerusalem. Jimmy Carter has signed on to the Palestinian side. He insists that Israel do what it did in the past, i.e., allow the Palestinians of East Jerusalem to vote in Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem polling stations. The former president is overlooking the most recent five years of violence. Collective punishment, of a sort not designed to cause massive deaths , is part of Israel's response. Sharon's government is not giving privileges to the Arabs of East Jerusalem that the Oslo-era governments of 1993-2000 gave to them.
Israelis suspect  that leaders of the Palestinian Authority do not want to hold elections in any case. Those sitting in the ruling chairs are pretty certain that widespread Hamas victories will embarrass them, or even force them to give up their offices and patronage. If this happens, there could be a wholesale change of who will be close to the funds donated by Western governments, and who gets to import automobiles, household goods, construction equipment and supplies, and lots of other things to Palestine. So the Palestinians are using Israel as their excuse. Because of Israeli intransigence, they cannot hold democratic elections.
Also true to form, the Palestinians are calling on the international community for help. They need more money, and more pressure on Israel, with respect to both our pressure on Gaza and the issue of voting in East Jerusalem. Jimmy Carter's words may help, but the Pope has more troops, and he does not seem to have done more than to pray for peace in the Middle East.

Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem