Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Yassin's assassination

Israel's "targeted killing" of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin promises to be a significant turning point in the trajectory of the Israel-Palestine conflict. While Israel claims the move was meant to strike a blow against terror and presumably safeguard its citizens, the assassination is better seen as a remarkably aggressive and reckless move that will only inflame tensions and lead to more attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. Many have noted Hamas' statement that this provocation promises to "open the gates of hell" -- which seems like a very real possibility.

Most significantly, as Rashid Khalidi has observed, Yassin's killing "may well be the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution." It will also throw a groundwell of support behind Hamas and significantly undercut the Palestinian Authority, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

But if history is any guide, this may be precisely the point. Israel rather notoriously mid-wifed Hamas during the 1970s in order to undercut the PLO, and therefore reduce the possibility of any sustained negotiations that could resolve the conflict. The same rationale is likely at work here, with Sharon hoping to provoke further violence which might then justify harsher measures by the Israelis -- like expulsion -- under the rubric of defending Israelis from further violence.

Israel has signaled a desire to resolve this conflict only with the application of military force. The response from the Palestinians will mirror this militarism. The coming months promise to be very grim, even moreso than usual.