U.S., Israel Face Mounting Pressure to Talk With Hamas-Fatah Government
There is a curious process of both hardening and softening of positions going on around the newly proclaimed Palestinian national unity government. Until now, the U.S., EU, and Israelis maintained a fairly united stand against the Hamas-led PA after it won the elections last winter. But now, Ismail Haniye and Mahmoud Abbas have rather deftly attempted to drive a wedge among them by presenting a united front which pledges to allow the moderate Abbas negotiate peace issues with Israel (if it will ever agree to sit with him); and avows that Hamas will accept the 2002 Arab League proposal. Hamas’ position on the latter plan provides a tacit recognition of Israel since it calls for Israel to return to 1967 borders in return for full recognition of the Jewish state by all Arab states.
The softening comes from the European side which said earlier this week:
the E.U. welcomed the announcement of the creation of a unity government, calling it a “positive development” and expressing “hopes that it will create the conditions for a return to the process of negotiation between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.”
At today’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, they declared their intention to support the new government. The Times reports that as a sop to the Americans and Israelis it has agreed to refrain from lifting aid restrictions which have strangled the Palestinians for many months. But it seems only a matter of time before (once the unity government actually is formed and takes office) the EU breaks ranks with its current partners.
Haaretz also quotes several foreign ministers who attended the meeting:
“We agreed that we have to support the new Palestinian government. It’s a very important turning point for the situation,” Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema told Reuters during a meeting of 25 EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
“[EU foreign policy chief] Javier Solana told us in the platform there will be recognition by the new government of the treaty signed by the Palestinian Authority in the past – it means recognize Israel as a partner,” D’Alema said.
…”We have a new Palestinian government. We have a new situation, and we should use it to get back to the peace process,” Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, chairing the meeting, told reporters on arrival.
…Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told reporters: “We are happy about the government of national unity. We are now trying to help it, also financially.”
Israel and the Bush Administration, on the other hand, are hardening their positions vis a vis the imminent Palestinian government. While Israel always dismissed this prospect as nothing new and nothing worth noting; the U.S. never spoke negatively about it–until now. Now, both parties are agin’ it:
…The Bush administration views the formation of such a government as a negative step. In conversations with foreign diplomats in Washington, administration officials said that the new Palestinian move is likely to increase the distance between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, rather than bring the two closer together. The United States would have less interaction with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if his Fatah party partners with Hamas in a government dominated by the terrorist group, and is likely to decrease American funding to his office, administration officials told foreign diplomats in Washington.
Without any justification, the White House judges that Abbas will become a tool of Hamas given such an arrangement:
Privately, in talks with Washington diplomats and Middle East experts, administration officials said this week that the creation of a Palestinian unity government is disappointing. The move, American diplomats reportedly said, brings the relatively moderate Abbas closer to the terrorist Hamas, rather than the other way around.
… [By] join[ing] a government headed by Hamas without fulfilling any of the three conditions [recognition f Israel, renunciation of violence, acceptance of previously negotiated agreements]…he [Abbas] is demonstrating his weakness and making himself a less likely interlocutor for negotiations with Israel.
This is an absolutely foolhardy reading of what is happening. If anything, it is Hamas which is giving the most ground here. Abbas gets almost everything he wants from the deal. Who in their right mind expects that Hamas will become pro-Israel in the blink of an eye especially considering the absolute mayhem Israel is wreaking in Gaza? Only the Bushites and Olmert can believe that this is a realistic position.
Here’s further evidence of the Bushites effrontery when it comes to attempting to muscle their way into internal Palestinian politics:
The administration’s disappointment is particularly acute because its chief Middle East policymakers feel as if they have been rebuffed by Abbas. In May, during a meeting with Abbas, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Welch, reportedly urged the Palestinian president to use his authority and dismiss Hamas’s government and appoint an alternative one, headed by moderates in its place. Abbas declined. Now, administration officials believe that he is going in the opposite direction, sources said.
Imagine that–an assistant secretary of state has the temerity to tell a sovereign president of a foreign country how he should conduct his domestic politics. What’s more, Bush has the unmitigated gall to be pissed at Abbas for rejecting the advice and going his own way.
So, it appears that the U.S. is reacting negatively to the national unity concept partly to spite Abbas for his willfulness. Does this type of bush league (pun intended) behavior remind you of other recent world events and the foolish leaders who tried unsuccessfully to direct them to a pre-ordained outcome?
And in case you’d like to hear the drivel coming from the mouths of the “thoughtful” Aipac-influenced think tanksters, this will enlighten you:
“Hamas is feeling a lot of public pressure because of the economic crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, and it is adjusting in a cosmetic fashion that enables Hamas — at a minimum — to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, while avoiding any doctrinal changes,” said David Makovsky, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
I was about to call this a flat out lie. But one could be a little more charitable and say merely that it’s a willful misinterpretation of events. If you merely look at the issue of the three conditions, then Hamas has not conceded anything. But if you are honest and take into account Hamas’ acceptance of the Saudi initiative, you simply cannot make the statement that Makofsky makes–at least not with a straight face. Hamas endorsement of the 2002 plan is potentially a huge breakthrough. It is unfortunate that Israelis like Makofsky and the Israeli government only wish to see the worst when it comes to developments within Palestinian politics.
The Israelis continue to live in a world of delusion when it comes to how their policies are viewed by the world community:
Later this month, at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Livni is expected to urge world leaders not to interact with or provide financial support to a Hamas-led government…
She’s on a fool’s errand. The momentum is turning against the U.S.-Israeli rejectionist approach to the PA. These two governments will, as usual, be the last to admit it and trim their sails accordingly.