The N.Y. Times published a good summary of the dwindling policy options available to each of the major players in the Gaza crisis. Though the article doesn’t say this, the only player who comes out on top in all this is Hamas, which again shows it holds many more cards than any other player wishes to acknowledge.
But the portion of the article that stood out in my mind was this vapid observation from Martin Indyk:
Ms. Rice’s…alternative — encouraging Israel to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas — has pitfalls…because that would further legitimize Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist organization.
Martin Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel, said such a cease-fire would further undermine Mr. Abbas and make it look like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating.
“Excluding them doesn’t work, and including them doesn’t work, either,” Mr. Indyk said. “So what do you do? This is a situation that does not lend itself to a sensible policy.”
They actually pay this guy money to say stupid things like that. And I say this as someone who, while he doesn’t think much of Indyk’s AIPAC roots, generally thinks the guy is fairly sensible in talking about Israel. What does it mean that “including them doesn’t work?” Says who? The fact of the matter is that Hamas has proven that you must include them. Who gives a damn whether it will embarrass Israel or the U.S. or undermine Abbas? Let’s get beyond this shtuyot (as an Israeli would say). Let’s look at what works.
For anyone naive enough to ask why Hamas is showering southern Israel with rockets when it’s so apparently counter-productive in terms of the impact on their Gaza constituents, you only have to look at the political situation. No one wants anything to do with Hamas–despite the fact that 64% of Israelis appear to be much brighter than their woeful leaders and have embraced direct talks with Hamas– so what better way to tweak the world’s nose than by refusing to roll over and play dead as Israel and the U.S. would prefer? With a relatively small number of rockets, Hamas has proven that the road to resolving the conflict goes not just through Ramallah, but through Gaza as well.
I add for the 100th time here that I’m not condoning or defending the rocket attacks which are a clear violation of international law. But with both sides in the wrong on that score it’s hard to say which one is worse.
They pay this guy to be stupid too. But he’s a Bushite and that’s to be expected of them:
Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said late Saturday that the United States wanted to see “an end to violence and all acts of terrorism directed against innocent civilians.” But, he noted, “there is a clear distinction between terrorist rocket attacks that target civilians and action in self defense.”
Why certainly. Killing 70 Palestinians in a day or two with half of them civilians definitely qualified as acting in “self-defense.” Saying, as Matan Vilnai did, you will bring a “holocaust” on the Gazans certainly qualifies as self-defense.
Ehud Olmert seems to have the stupids too:
[He] responded to international criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, saying that “nobody has the right to preach morality to the State of Israel for taking basic action to defend itself.”
Someone’s got to do it as Olmert and the IDF appear to have taken leave of their senses much as they did during the Lebanon war. Olmert continued:
Mr. Olmert also seemed to reject the argument by Mr. Abbas that peace talks cannot carry on in the shadow of the events in Gaza. “The more that Hamas is hit, the greater the chances of reaching a diplomatic agreement and peace,” Mr. Olmert said. He added that beyond their public statements, “the Palestinian leadership with whom we are trying to make peace understands this.”
Abbas was so “understanding” of the Israeli position that he broke off all talks with Olmert. This is a perfect example of knowing next to nothing about your negotiating partner. How well does this bode for the long-term success of Olmert-Abbas talks?
Someone really ought to point out to Helene Cooper, who wrote the first story linked above, the error in this statement:
So Ms. Rice will try to press surrogates, including Egypt, to lean on Hamas, administration officials say.
How does Egypt become a surrogate for Hamas, which it hates? This again points to the utter bankruptcy of U.S. policy. We think Egypt can help us talk our way out of this mess when Hamas’ ties to the Muslim Brotherhood make it a natural enemy of the Mubarak regime.
And contrary to the above two policy-wonk buffoons, Aaron David Miller thankfully makes perfect sense and talks in plain, simple terms of what needs to be done:
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to the region on Monday…she is confronting very few options in achieving President Bush’s stated goal of peace between Israel and a new Palestinian state…
“She’s walking into a buzz saw,” said Aaron David Miller, author of “The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.” “You cannot make peace with half of the Palestinian polity and go to war with the other half.”
“This is beyond her [Rice’s] capacity, and beyond even the capacity of a secretary of state like Kissinger or Baker,” said Mr. Miller, who served as a Middle East negotiator for the last three presidents. “This is rooted in a fundamental problem that we haven’t acknowledged: Israel cannot make peace with a divided Palestine.”
Say Amen somebody. But who’s listening?? No one in Washington or Jerusalem that’s for sure.
How do you know Egypt “hates” HAMAS? Yes, I know HAMAS is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood which is repressed in Egypt, but the general consensus here in Israel is that Egypt supports the HAMAS regime in Gaza, encouraged their massive acquisition of arms and acquiseced to their taking control of Gaza from Abbas’s people. Egypt has efficient security forces and so people could not move the tons of equipment, rockets, high explosives, etc, from the Sinai to the Gaza border without Egyptian approval. Egypt conducts formal relations with the HAMAS regime, sending Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to meet with them frequently. Egypt is in a nice position..they receive billions of dollars per year in aid from the US as a reward for their “peace agreement” with Israel, yet they are able to maintain a war of attrition with Israel from Gaza by means of their HAMAS proxies.
Rod Brown says
“But with both sides in the wrong on that score it’s hard to say which one is worse.”
Not for much longer Richard:
Seems Israels powers that be are legalising thier actions. So it will just be one side in the wrong , or according to this YNET article Israel cant be in the wrong as they are only now about to retaliate for rocket fire from Gaza and are only now possibly considering certain actions which they have already been using for years ..
Richard Silverstein says
How do I know Egypt hates Hamas? Because any analyst who has ever commented on this subject accepts it as a given. All you have to do is Google “Hamas & Egypt” or any other variation on the phrase and read what comes up that applies to this subject. The relations bet. the two are tenuous at best. Egypt realizes it has to do a delicate balancing act. It wants to avoid outright fighting with Hamas. Also, there are many in Egypt who support both the Brotherhood & Hamas’ resistance to Israel. So it cannot act as Hamas’ enemy outright.
Whether or not you are correct, the truth is that the relationship is tremendously ambivalent.
It seems to me that Egypt can oppose Hamas on one front and support them on another front.
Egypt supports Hamas when it’s politically viable to do so, ie to appease the banned Muslim Brotherhood from a revolt. As much as Mubarak would want to be seen as a legitimate ally of the Palestinians by his Arab counterparts, everyone knows (especially people on the ground) knows he is in collusion with Israel and even helps strangle the Gaza Strip. The rhetoric is empty, similar to Israel’s “concessions” and offers for “peace”.