Posted by Joshua on Saturday, June 16th, 2007
The victory of Hamas over the PLO in Gaza underscores the bankruptcy of US policy throughout the Middle East. Divide-and-rule is not working, only engagement with US adversaries can stem escalating radicalism in the region.
The conviction that Washington can re-arrange the realities of the Middle East through force was disproved in Iraq long ago, but Washington has closed its eyes to this plain truth. It has broadened the war into neighboring states and continues to seek a win by arming allies and pushing them to forward to battle.
As a result, US allies have reached the breaking point in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine. Radicalism is on the rise throughout the region. Al-Qaida rejoices as civil strife spreads and failed states multiply. The longer Washington persists in its policy of confrontation, the less leverage it will have at the bargaining table. Rather than strengthen America's position in the Middle East, Washington's violent policy is cutting the ground from underneath it.
Daniel Levy, the Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative and a Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation and New America Foundation has written an excellent analysis of the situation in Palestine on his blog at: www.prospectsforpeace.com. He explains the dangers and folly of continuing to pursue the Western policy of "Promoting Fatahland, while punishing Hamastan.
Here is an excerpt from Levy's analysis:
Hamas is now in control of Gaza after a cruel, if somewhat surprisingly easy, military victory over Fatah. The images coming out of the Palestinian territories have been harsh to say the least and neither side looks good to put it mildly. The spillover to the West Bank, thus far, has been limited to sporadic Fatah-revenge attacks against identifiable Hamas targets. President Abbas has declared a state of emergency and the disbanding of the unity government. These actions appear to be within the remit of his power, but only for a limited time period, after which Parliamentary approval would be required (and tricky given that the PLC is majority Hamas and that so many members are now in Israeli prisons). Abbas could call elections, that would be even more high-risk. Those who always viewed the political Islam of Hamas and responsible government as incompatible think they have been vindicated. They are wrong.
The situation is bleak, if predictable. The unity government arrangement was always a fragile one. The core group within both Fatah and Hamas who supported a national political accommodation between the factions were fighting a rearguard action against rejectionists from within their respective ranks from day one. The hopes for a functioning unity government were dealt a mortal blow when outside actors led by America and Israel, with the support also of certain Arab states and the complicity of Europe, all worked to undermine the government and strengthened those elements within Fatah striving to violently collapse the government.
Naturally, everyone is now looking for a way out and for a ray of hope in this desperate situation. That is a healthy human instinct, but the emerging plan articulated over the last days from many quarters and in danger of becoming entrenched, is a fantastical one – divorced from reality and far too similar to the previous failed policies that helped create this disaster. The emerging plan is known variously as promoting Fatahland, while punishing Hamastan, or West Bank first, or feed the West Bank/starve Gaza. There is no detailed elaboration of the plan yet, but its outline would look something like this:
Use the new reality as an opportunity to drive home the division between the West Bank-Fatahland and the Gaza-Hamastan.Visibly demonstrate to the Palestinians that Fatahland is a happy place with an advancing peace process, while Hamastan is a dark and hopeless place excluded from this march of peace. Ultimately, so the story goes, the Palestinians embrace the Fatah alternative. Hamas peacefully accepts the consequences or is militarily defeated and we all live happily ever after.
This vision may feature in next week’s Washington talks between President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert. The most sophisticated version of this approach, far more sophisticated than what today’s politicians are likely to come up with, appears in a Washington Post oped by Martin Indyk.
And in truth, it does sound attractive and it is understandable that many people including people of good will and members of the peace camp would begin to mobilize around this plan. It kills two birds with one stone – we are not only provided with a supposedly workable policy for supporting the goodies against the badies, but also given a pathway back to the peace process, as part of the plan would be for Olmert to negotiate with Abbas and perhaps, agree to further withdrawals and/or confidence building measures in the West Bank. A complex and difficult to understand situation suddenly is presented with great clarity and deemed amenable to attractive solutions.
As is clear from the above, I think this approach is wrong-headed and more of the same failed policies, rather than a departure from them. I want to explain why that is and what the alternatives might be. (Read the rest.)