Thursday, September 2, 2010

Israel, the PA, Hamas, and the IRA

The need for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is so great that I'll hope for the best in the current negotiations while expecting something less. The obstacles to peace are many, and one of them can be illuminated by an example from Irish history--specifically the history of the IRA.

Carey McWilliams, my old professor, made the point in the 1970s: the IRA could never force the British into a settlement in Northern Ireland--but it could prevent any settlement that it did not like. Once, this was true of the PLO. Today it is true of Hamas.

The Israeli government may forge an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. But can the Palestinian Authority bring along Hamas? If it can't does that mean a civil war among Palestinians? Or a Palestinian state on what is now the West Bank and something else for Gaza?

The parallels between the two situations aren't exact, but the examples of Ireland, the IRA, the aftermath of the Irish war of independence, and the more recent decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, are sobering.

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