The Israeli government has decided to withhold monthly tax payments to the Palestinians, as punishment for the new Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority. On the surface, one can hardly blame the Israelis for refusing to fund an organization that doesn't recognize Israel and prefers terrorism to make its political points. However, Israel's latest counter only serves to embolden the forces the decision means to suppress.
Hamas has risen to prominence, primarily as a function of Palestinian frustrations over their current third-world conditions. Extremism thrives in an environment where people generally lack hope and optimism. Desperation leads otherwise "moderate" people to employ more radical tactics to achieve their aspirations. While the Palestinian Authority is partially to blame, through their mismanagement and corruption, Hamas has rose to prominence mainly because average Palestinians see little opportunity.
Israel's decision to punish Palestinians monetarily, coupled with other nations threats to stop aid, will only exasperate the situation. Lowering the standard of living of ordinary Palestinians is certainly not a recipe for future moderation and concessions. This pattern of Israeli action, Palestinian reaction, followed by further Israeli action is a vicious cycle that seems neverending. The latest move by Israel has the ironic effect of actually providing terrorists with another recruitment tool. Marginalizing Palestinians is not in Israel's self interest- it weakens the security situation.
What is Israel to do then? Obviously, they can't accept Hamas under its present configuration and justifiably so. The only hope to stop this downward spiral is some third-party nuance. Of course, the Bush administration demonstrates their complete lack of diplomatic understanding with its blanket threats to stop aid, without looking at solutions. What is needed is a way to continue the flow of aid to the Palestinians through channels that don't overtly support Hamas, and all the baggage that comes with any validation. The international community provides a great deal of aid to many Arab nations. Surely, these Arab nations could assume a more prominent role, with the backdoor backing of the West. The money still flows, from sympathetic nations, but the source is essentially the same. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
All sides need to recognize the wisdom in the old saying, "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". Israel wants security and a lasting peace. Palestinians want a homeland and self-determination. America, and the rest of the international community wants stability, which will defuse much of the tension in the region. All efforts should work towards this goal, and when a development arises that appears a setback, reaction must be muted and approached with overall detachment. Israel's latest actions only serve the people they wish to punish- so goes the story of the holy land.