Hudna is a Palestinian affair
- Sun., Jun. 1, 2003 Ha`aretz
Hudna is a Palestinian affair By Zvi Bar'el
Hudna has become such a household word that soon we will probably hear of
hudna ice cream in five flavors and that the hudna furniture store will be
open on Saturdays too. Hudna is a well-known process in tribal law: It's the
stage at which the heads of feuding families decide to halt the chase for
bloody vengeance temporarily until a peace agreement is achieved between
them - a sulha. If a sulha is not reached, the hudna is voided and the
vendetta is resumed.
When Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is asked if he managed to
achieve a hudna with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he replies that an agreement
to this effect has not been signed yet, but that there are talks and
understandings. A senior Hamas representative, Ismail Abu Shnab, said that
"if Abu Mazen reaches an agreement with Israel, we will not embarrass him."
In other words, Hamas will give Abbas a chance to reach an agreement. The
hudna is therefore perceived, rightfully, as an internal Palestinian affair.
Achieving the hudna is not and should not be an Israeli demand. Israel is
not and should not be negotiating separately with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or
any other organization that is not the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is not
being tested for his ability to mediate between Israel and these
organizations. They are his problem. The principle he is acting on - "one
authority and one strong Palestinian army" - is proof that he acknowledges
This principle already encompasses what Israel calls "war against the terror
infrastructure." To implement it, Israel will probably have to give up the
spectacle of Palestinian brigades killing Hamas activists and demolishing
their houses as proof of war on the "infrastructure." This was a deceptive
spectacle anyway, not only because it does not guarantee success, and Israel
can testify to that, but because it is the last thing Israel should be
interested in, if only for purely security reasons - a Palestinian civil
A ruling authority wishing to gain broad legitimacy from its own public does
not destroy the homes of its people. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not a
foreign body in the Palestinian society. Although they hold a radical
pan-Islamic ideology, they are, first and foremost, Palestinian
Therefore, the dialogue with those organizations that Abbas speaks of is, in
fact, one of the correct ways of fighting terror - neutralizing their
motivation to sabotage the PA's political moves, for national reasons.
Abbas wishes to achieve this goal by creating circumstances for the advent
of Palestinian public pressure against whoever obstructs the idea of the
Palestinian state, rehabilitating its economy and building its civilian
society - hence, the great importance that Abbas attributes to the release
of detainees, to giving Palestinians permits to work in Israel and to
rehabilitating the economy.
These are not merely personal achievements he wishes to score, but a formula
that can deprive the extreme organizations of the mainstream's legitimacy to
continue the terrorist attacks.
Such public pressure has already proved itself in a few other places. The
Lebanese public began applying similar pressure on Hezbollah after Israel's
withdrawal; the Egyptian public has denounced the radical organizations; and
when the Oslo agreement was still valid, the Palestinian public in Gaza
acted against Hamas' attempt to dictate a radical religious way of life.
Such public pressure, which followed the Israel Defense Forces' strong-arm
policy in the territories, gave legitimacy to Abbas' appointment and to his
political conception - that the violent intifada must be dropped in favor of
a political struggle.
This is the first Palestinian attempt to translate the intifada into a
political victory for the Palestinians and to get out of a dead-end
predicament. Israel must support this endeavor if it really intends to fight
the "terror infrastructure."