Israel has a long and honored tradition of gross meddling in Palestinian politics in order to get the kinds of outcome it prefers. A few decades ago it was the Village Leagues, which were supposed to be West Bank toady tribal elders doing Israel’s bidding. Then Israel helped lay the groundwork for Hamas in a pathetic attempt to undercut Fatah support among Palestinians. Those ideas worked swimmingly as we now can see with Hamas controlling Palestinian government.
The U.S. too has a proud and miserable record of meddling in the internal affairs of foreign governments: Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, Iran, El Salvador. We have a long and dishonorable tradition of trying to disrupt, topple or otherwise interfere with any government we didn’t like. Potential future candidates for such interference might now be Bolivia or Brazil where we officially “detest” the “leftists” in power.
So isn’t it reassuring that both Israel and the U.S. are going to team up to bring the new Hamas government to its knees. How do they plan to do that?
The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.
….The United States and Israel say Palestinian life will only get harder if Hamas does not meet those three demands.
This is quite humorous since the PA is essentially bankrupt. How do you further starve a nation that is essentially already starving? How do you make Palestinian life that is already essentially unbearable and prison-like even more so? And do we really think that the Palestinians will not see through this charade and place blame where it belongs? Not on Hamas, but on us and the Israelis?
The U.S. has committed approximately $200-million to the PA while Israel contributes several hundred million per year according to international agreement. Do the U.S. and Israel really believe that the Arab governments, Russia and France (who’ve both indicated a willingness to buck the U.S. in its effort to isolate Hamas) wouldn’t step in and fill that gap? Personally, I think Hamas would look mighty good as a David fighting against the U.S.-Israel Goliath in that struggle. They’re the scrappy underdogs fighting against all odds on behalf of their people. Makes for a great story in the world media.
They say Hamas will be given a choice: recognize Israel’s right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements — as called for by the United Nations and the West — or face isolation and collapse.
So get this, we give Hamas an ultimatum–do our bidding or begone. That’s also going to go over awfully well in the world community. The U.S. has been doing nothing but bullying in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq and now we want to start bullying Hamas. I’d say this policy should work about as well as our Iraq policy has worked over the past few years–that is to say, hardly at all.
And I say this as someone who does not support Hamas. But I can see this putative policy as a train wreck waiting to happen. It’s the fruit of some hyperactive spook-like imagination. I’m sorry to say that the Times indicates this plan is being discussed “at the highest levels of the State Department and the Israeli government.” That is to say, Condi Rice is behind this thing. Hard to believe a woman that smart (well, at least about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) can be so dumb as to embrace this turkey.
The United States and the European Union in particular want any failure of Hamas in leadership to be judged as Hamas’s failure, not one caused by Israel and the West.
Well, gee after this article that shouldn’t be difficult to pull off, should it?
The U.S.-Israeli plan relies on Mahmoud Abbas to implement it since he’d be the one to declare Hamas’ government null and void and call new elections. What we’re not relying on is the fact that Abbas will not want to see himself as a willing accomplice to this ham-handed manipulation. He’d be smart to resign too rather than cooperate with such meddling in his own nation’s politics.
It is essential that the European Union and Russia step in and tell Condi she’s losing her mind on this one. And tell her if she insists on going forward that they will oppose her and break up what consensus has been built up regarding the international community’s response to Hamas. In that sense, the recent French-Russian breakaway is a good thing. If Russia (a government I normally detest) can create some political movement in Hamas’ positions and France supports these efforts, then the U.S. and Israel will be left holding the bag.
The Times article quotes this upbeat assessment from a Hamas legislator:
Mr. Asaad laughed and added: “First, I thank the United States that they have given us this weapon of democracy. But there is no way to retreat now. It’s not possible for the U.S. and the world to turn its back on an elected democracy.”
Ah, but we did just that in Chile and we can do the same in Palestine given half a chance.
Andrew Schamess says
Hi, Richard. Excellent point, as always.
It seems to me that now that Hamas has taken on formal institutional power it is a potential target for constructive engagement. I think it’s reasonable for the international community to use its financial leverage to pressure Hamas to extend the ceasefire, revise its charter, and come up with a formula that will allow it to negotiate toward a two-state solution (the formula is already floating around, essentially that while Hamas may not recognize in principle Israel’s right to the waqf, it will accept long-term peaceful coexistence if that is in the interest of the Palestinian people).
As you point out, Israel and right-wing Zionists in the U.S. are pushing for total disengagement: no recognition and no funding for a government in which Hamas takes part. I suspect the strategy there is exactly to destabilize the Palestinian government, or push it so far to the left that it becomes an international pariah – not so much to bring back Fatah, as to justify continued unilateralism. It’s really the same approach with Hamas as with Fatah – ignore any terms for peace proposed by the other side, undermine Palestinian civil authority, destabilize the government, and insist that Israel cannot negotiate because it has no patner.
The right-wingers have plenty of friends in Congress. I’d guess that the Bush administration is trying to tread a middle ground, issuing ultimata to Hamas while leaving the door slightly open to back-channel diplomacy.
You hit the nail on the head, though: by trying to dictate terms to Hamas – as it usually does to third world governments and weaker nations – the U.S. leaves the movement’s leadership no room to maneuver. Faced with a cutoff of aid and no palatable basis for compromise, Hamas will have not choice but to turn elsewhere for support. We undercut our own diplomacy with belicose rhetoric. In the end, if we continue on this course, we’ll throw away the opportunity we now have to transform an inveterate foe of the peace process into a participant.
Mike Nargizian says
For once I totally agree with Rich.
a) Abbas is nothing more than a figure head annointed by the US and EU and is completely powerless and commands *0* respect on the Palestinian street. A – because he is a corrupt forein Tunis mafia right along the entire corrupt Tunis gang. B – because he is seen as a forein agent.
b) Abbas and the PLO never recogized Israel officially in document form, they never amended their charter either. and in action – their badges, pictures, newspapers, textbooks television programs all reject Israel’s right to exist outwardly and latently and embrace the most vile subhuman hate, jihad and rejectionism. So now we get Hamas which is completely upfront about this and **may** for a short time actually be less corrupt. Now the PC crowd like yourself will have an even harder time persuading the average person the Palestinians want peace and compromise and a 2 state solution.
c) The State Dept and Rice are desperate to bring Hamas to its knees bcs they want to see some immediate light they can at least with a straight face pretend is there – even though it really isn’t.
d) The idea that if the US and EU give full support to Hamas it “will be better” bcs “they can have some influence with them” is so laughable its quite pathetic to even postulate it. It’s “better to give them $$ rather than France or Russia”…… like the bribing of the less fundamentalists PA got the US anywhere?
e) The idea that “””” right wing Zionists “”” are out to isolate and bring Hamas to its knees…. I mean what’s the big deal if they are the living embodiment of Islamo fascism a sister branch within the family of the Taleban next door to a powder keg? I got news for you – right left center so-called “zionists” and “not zionists” are all very concerned about this.
f) Rich inidcates the PA is already bankrupt? Gee I wonde why since billions are missing and there is NO accountability whatsoever for the funds? And yet women in Egypt still mysteriously want to marrry Gazan Arabs for a “better life”. And Gaza is a hell hole for the most part compared to the West Bank? So your answer is keep sending the aid (bribery $$) and perpetuate the problem. Acutally cutting off the aid would likely be a boon to the PA and might perhaps force some accountability though I doubt it.
Andrew Schamess says
a) Abbas was elected by a large majority of Palestinians and has remained fairly popular even though his party lost at the polls. Abbas himself has waged a steady battle against the corrupt “old guard” within Fatah.
b) When academic researchers have looked at Palestinian textbooks, they find little actual evidence of incitement. See here (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=511923) and here (http://www.gei.de/english/projekte/israel.shtml) for example. Both sides present the conflict according to their own perspective but gross antisemitism of the sort that’s often imuted by critics is lacking.
c) I’m not sure where you’re seeing Rice talking about “bringing Hamas to its knees”. She said on 30.January: Hamas “is going to have to make some difficult choices. It now inherits the obligations of a Palestinian government, authority, that go back now for more than a decade to recognize the right of Israel to exist, to renounce violence, to disarm militias, as is the case in the roadmap, and to find a peaceful solution in two states.” (http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=January&x=20060130161738ajesrom0.7423975&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html)
d) I don’t find the idea of engaging Hamas laughable at all. It’g the basis of present European diplomacy and, though we are taking a somewhat harder line, U.S. diplomacy as well.
f) Hamas may have an ideology that is distasteful, but there isn’t much evidence that it’s corrupt. That’s probably the main reason it swept the elections. See the latest International Crisis Group report on Hamas for a wealth of detail (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3886&l=1).
Mike Nargizian says
a) The Abbas election has been crucified as being corrupt not by the right but by the left in academia. Plus, when Hamas swept the elections there were throngs of Palestinians telling him to resign and take himself and the rest of his corrupt thieving fat cats back to Tunis.
b) The idea that there isn’t incitement and rejectionism inherent throughout the PA territories, in schools, newspapers summer camps etc… is so laughable that I won’t even entertain this. But if you want to believe this is so and that the zeitgeist and what is taught to kids there is “somewhat equal” to what is taught in Israel…. then YOU GO RIGHT AHEAD and this need to claim this position by you is not surprising.
c) I didn’t make the claim about bringing Hamas to its knees the papers reported it and Rich reprinted this in this post and analyzed it. And the chances that Hamas will reform is a cletieu that is coming closer and closer if not there to the over used Chamberlin comparison.
d) If it’s the European line well I always take my cues from Javier Solana….. there is gentleman I would want running my company or from whom I would want to follow into battle. an example of strong character and fortitude. Hamas is the only choice they got and since Europe nor the US can never accept the idea of “Hey there is nothing we can do here until the situation changes in the Territories and the Arab world….” because of –
1) Western need to always find some hope
4) The limelight (nothing more juicy then being seen as a person involved in the conflict)
So of course they get Hamas to declare some fake medium term truce in English and then with a straight face can claim “that progress is being made and command Israel to make further painful concessions.
f) Right Hamas isn’t corrupt because they haven’t been in power yet. I don’t think the Mullahs were corrupt in Iran in 1979 either? EH? You know in Louisiana I heard that due to Mary Landrieu and the Mayor of New Orleans corruption that many people are vying for David Duke as a “non-corrupt” alernative….. Ignoring his 1 conviction for a moment – I mean he’s never been corrupt in power yet? EH? So that would thereby qualify him.
he’s also a very mellow light speaker, thus the media could theoretically even wax poetically somewhat about him… the way they first tried to about the new Iranian nutjob.
So ya know everything’s relative…. morally relative that is….. at least when one needs it to be right?
Richard Silverstein says
I praise Andrew for taking up the hopeless cause of talking sense to Mike’s almost universal nonsense. I’ve stopped arguing w. him since he never listens to what anyone says & is universally convinced of the soundness of his views when they’re 80%+ full of bunk & junk.
Thanks for no longer attempting to insult me by claiming I live in LA. But, no one calls me “Rich” unless they want to insult me. Don’t go by the name. So if you have a shred of respect in you you’d cut out that nonsense. Of course, if you don’t as Aussie Dave has made a habit of doing, then that’ll only confirm your unwillingness to listen to anyone’s opinions but yr own.
John R says
To help a little on a maybe hopeless cause: (b)”Abbas and the PLO never recogized Israel officially in document form, they never amended their charter either.” The first is sheer lunacy, no one has ever questioned that the PLO formally recognized Israel by 1993 – Oslo at the latest. The letters said “we recognize you” in so many words – what has actually never happened was recognition the other way around – Israel has never recognized the State of Palestine as many other states have. (I’m curious where Mike got this one from – I’ve read a lot of rightwing propaganda myths, but don’t recall this one.) The second idea is a much more common and slightly saner piece of propaganda, but is equally false. The PLO changed their charter (by 1996 or 1998) – not only the PLO, but the USA and all governments of Israel since 1998 say so – as proclaimed by PMs Netanyahu, Sharon and Peres among others. Take a look at the Wikipedia article on the PLO charter (much of which I wrote) – and any source for the Oslo documents. I think if one is trying to reason someone out of an irrational belief system, it can be easier to start from the abstract rather than the concrete, as is often done (e.g. having contests about whose atrocities are worse). Things like treaties and charters can be looked up in black and white. Someone who actually and naively believed these things then has some cognitive dissonance and rational distrust of their propaganda source – and realize if it is lying about such easily, definitively and quickly checkable things, maybe it is about other things too.
Richard Silverstein says
John R: Frankly, I don’t think Mike knows the difference between fact and his own version of reality when it comes to the Mideast. He really believes things are facts which almost everyone else except the fringe loony right knows are wrong. It doesn’t pay to argue with him. And I say this as someone who will argue till the cows come home both here and at other blogs with others who do not share my progressive views of the I-P conflict. I like nothing more than a good argument between people of good faith with divergent views.
But the Little Green Footballs-Nargizian crowd are in cloud cuckoo land when it comes to any discussion of Islam, Arabs or Palestinians. As far as they’re concerned you can’t go wrong if you assume the worst of yr ‘enemy.’