“This is as close they can come to taking a sow’s ear and trying to turn it into a silk purse,” said Martin S. Indyk, former American ambassador to Israel and director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution…
…”The dissolution of the Palestinian government is a singular moment that will allow the United States and its allies to create a “new model of engagement.”
–‘Senior Administration official’ quoted in Washington Post
Martin Indyk and the Bush White House can try to spin this as much as they like, but Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian civil war is momentous, it is catastrophic, and it irredeemable. It is laughable to say that the world will abandon Gaza to Hamas, allowing it to stew in its own juices, while showering its largess on Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and the West Bank. The West Bank is no laboratory for Palestinian democracy. It is no panacea to solve anything related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West Bank is a truncated Palestine.
What good does it do to have two entites claiming to be the “real Palestine?” Two governments. Two peoples. They don’t share half of anything. Half of nothing is still nothing.
It is laughable too for Israel to talk of bolstering Abbas. What will they do, what can they do that will truly bolster him? Can they negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state and end the Occupation? Of course they can, but they won’t. Besides, in these circumstances if Israel left the West Bank there would be further chaos and Hamas would be emboldened to foment unrest there as well till it toppled Fatah. Given Fatah’s ineptitude, this process wouldn’t take long. No, I’m afraid this is the Talmudic equivalent of mekah taoot, shoddy merchandise Israel cannot return. It’s the equivalent of Colin Powell’s alleged Pottery Barn rule regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq: you break it and its yours. Israel has done nothing to prevent Palestine from breaking and now it has. It has no one to blame but itself.
We can spend hours allotting blame to the Palestinians who brought this disaster on themselves with Hamas, as civil war instigator, the primary offender; though Fatah comes in a close second with its extravagant dysfunctionality and pervasive corruption. But the real culprits who had a chance and muffed it yet again are Israel and the U.S. As Aaron David Miller so aptly points out:
“The solution to all this was back in 2005,” said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former adviser on Arab-Israeli relations at the State Department. “In 2005, Arafat was gone, Abbas had been freely and fairly elected, but we weren’t prepared to empower him. How are we going to take advantage of the opportunities that don’t exist now in 2007 when we wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunities when they existed in 2005?”
There is joy in the hearts of certain Israeli military intelligence analysts these days as they watch the disaster unfolding in Palestine. For they know that a Palestine in chaos is not one with which Israel will be compelled to negotiate. Thus putting off even farther into the future the inevitable Israeli territorial compromise which will finally resolve the conflict. My esteemed friend, M.J. Rosenberg puts it quite well when he writes:
The name of their [right-wing Israelis] game was, is, and always will be making sure that Israel has “no partner” with whom to negotiate. Their worst fear is of Palestinians like Mahmoud Abbas who is a credible negotiating partner. They were undoubtedly relieved to hear that, as Roni Shaked reported in today’s Yediot, “the Prime Minister’s advisers [declared] the Palestinian Authority dead, [saying] there is no one to talk to… and that the Bush administration will not put pressure on Olmert at this stage to come up with ideas for renewing the negotiations with Abbas and promoting a diplomatic horizon.”
I understand that this is a difficult point to assimilate. But the fact is that Israeli (and American) right-wingers are rooting for the Palestinian extremists. And that is why, today, with Hamas fully in control of Gaza, they are as happy as Red Sox fans when the team is eleven games up on the Yankees on Labor Day.
But those Israelis secretly or openly rejoicing ought to think twice. There should be no joy in Mudville tonight. For a Gaza controlled by Hamas is a territory controlled by Islamists. And there is much mischief that can come to Israel from this. Until now, the Likud right had been one of the few voices trumpeting the danger of the Talibanization of Palestine. Now, we have a potentially real specter of jihadist around the world flocking to Gaza and the New, New Thing for radical Muslims. Does Israel believe they can control this genie and somehow get it back in its bottle once it has been loosed on Gaza?
No, I’m afraid not. Before there was some hope that Hamas might moderate its positions and become a truly political force, thereby allowing the world to recognize it and Palestinian democracy. Now, Hamas will feel no pressure whatsoever to moderate itself. This is a return to square one. All bets are off. Much as I despise Dore Gold’s world view as expressed in his execrable new book, The Fight for Jerusalem, it is very possible that Gaza will now become Israel’s worst nightmare. A truly failed state like Afghanistan or Somalia from which terror is loosed on the world.
In Israel, Ehud Barak became defense minister, appointed by a failed prime minister and taking over from his failed predecessor, Amir Peretz. The talk is of war. Here is Itzik Sporta of the Israeli progressive blog, HaOkets (translated by Sol Salbe):
Peace seems to be even further away than it ever was. Thus Barak gets chosen because he promised he could run a war better than anyone else. He…boasts of his ability to renew Israel’s deterrence and dictating power. He does not promise, God forbid, reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians. Instead he raises the hope of a well-conducted war. I never realised that are our situation has degenerated to the point that our only remaining hope is to live by the sword — but efficiently.”
This is a vision of Israel as Sparta forever fighting wars, never enjoying peace. It is a bankrupt policy and vision. Feed the maw of Death Israelis and Palestinians for there is surely much of it in store.
If I recall correctly, Jesse Jackson gave his famous speech before the 1984 Democratic National Convention in which he chanted memorably and in incantatory style: “Keep hope alive, Keep hope alive, Keep hope alive.” Well, as far as Gaza is concerned, hope is dead.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.