Posted by Joshua on Thursday, January 15th, 2009
Palestine’s Bleak Future and Syria’s Disappointment in Obama
Landis Analysis, January 15
The French article copied below — Arafat Adviser: “Abbas moves from one failure to another to the advantage of Israel” — describes the future of the Palestinians which is black indeed.
Hassan Balawi believes that the Palestinians have failed in their efforts to develop a successful strategy for a two state solution. Israel will be successful in pushing responsibility for Gaza onto Egypt and the remains of the West Bank onto Jordan. Both Egypt and Jordan are desperately trying to avoid this possibility because Gaza will be a heavy burden on Egypt economically and politically. Mubarak fears acquiring an organism run by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Jordanian monarch fears getting sucked back into the West Bank, which will import disorder into his small kingdom.
All the gains of the Oslo process have been lost, he concludes. PA state institutions and control have been lost, and Hamas will acquire the mantle of Palestinian resistance. The West will have no option but to open negotiations with Hamas. The Palestinians failed to remain united and pursue a wise national vision. Today the small calculations of factional maneuver dominate Palestinian leadership and the halls of Arab politics.
Hillary Clinton has promised that the US will not open dialogue with Hamas until it has renounced violence, but made no indication that Obama will bring pressure on Israel to stop building settlements or extending its system of roadblocks and consolidation of sovereignty over Jerusalem. Indeed, the foreign policy she outlined for the US seems surprisingly similar to what it has been during the last few years of the Bush administration. Iran will continue to be demonized because Washington’s and Tehran’s policies remain on course for a head on crash. The US will “not accept” a nuclear Iran, which can only be interpreted as a promise to go to war against Iran if it doesn’t not back down from its policy of producing nuclear weapons. The effort to compel an Iranian reversal will require more sanctions, more rallying of the world against Iran, and more military and diplomatic pressure. The key will be to get Russia and China to join in this effort.
The positive part of Hillary’s policy statements was her promise to re-engage Syria and Iran and the return of diplomacy – but this should mean a willingness to make important compromises to achieve results. It is not clear how these compromises can be made, given her categorical statements about Iran and Syria. For Syria, she insisted on a flip, which has been a sticking point. Assad has insisted that Syria will not flip and break relations with its main allies – Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas; rather, he believes that a larger regional compromise must be worked out that will include major Israeli and US concessions to match Syrian-Iranian accommodations. Syria clearly wants to bring its Lebanese and Palestinian allies along by negotiating clear political gains for them in exchange for their making military concessions and promises to forswear violence.
In short, from Syria’s vantage point, it looks like the Obama administration is insisting that Syria give up its regional role and become a gelding. In exchange for abandoning its regional strategy, Syria is being promised – at least in theory – economic benefits (perhaps this is through the lifting of sanctions) and diplomatic support for negotiations with Israel over the Golan. (The US has made no clear statement that it believes the Golan is Syrian territory for a very long time. On the contrary, President Bush told Prime Minister Sharon in 2004 that most settlements of the West Bank will have to be incorporated into Israel in a future peace. Analogy would suggest that a similar argument could be developed by the US to support Israeli retention of portions of the Golan. Syria has been given pressious little to move forward on – all the same, it is giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. What else can it do?
Obama’s support for Israel’s destruction of Hamas is not promising. If the US supports Israel’s continued efforts to hunt down Hamas’ leaders and kill them, the situation will be bleak. If Hamas is effectively decapitated, diplomacy will have little future for the Palestinians. Israel will have been rewarded for the use of force and will continue to move to acquire portions of the West Bank unilaterally. Palestinian population centers in the West Bank will be dumped on Jordan. Gazans will have no option but to look to a horrified Egypt for relief from their geographic imprisonment and economic suffocation.
A more positive scenario is provided by Jonathan Freedland writing in The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009.:Amid the horror and doom of Gaza, the IRA precedent offers hope. He writes:
The Northern Ireland example is instructive. Through dialogue even the most implacable of enemies can make peace
….There are at least a few steps that brought eventual peace to Northern Ireland that could be emulated in the Middle East – but they would require an enormous leap of imagination on all sides. Perhaps the very first move would be a true declaration of intent from Israel. This would be an analogue of the statement in 1990 by the then Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Brooke, that the British government had no “selfish strategic or economic interest” in retaining the province.
The second move has to take place inside the heads of both sides: it is the realisation that no military solution will ever be possible. The road to peace in Northern Ireland began when the British army concluded it could never fight the IRA to more than an “honourable draw” and when the IRA realised it would never bomb British troops out of the province. Hamas has similarly to conclude that suicide bombs on Israeli buses and rockets aimed at Israel’s southern towns will delay, not bring, an end to occupation. Israel has to understand that a movement like Hamas, rooted in the soil of Gaza, cannot be crushed by force. That, on the contrary, raining fire on Gaza will have the same effect on Hamas that internment had on the IRA: it will recruit a new generation of fighters, making it stronger not weaker.
The next stage is the hardest. Adams has called on Israel to enter direct dialogue with Hamas, learning the Irish lesson that for peace to work it must include even those on the extremes. But it’s not quite that simple. Republicans did not get their seat at the table until they had forsworn violence and agreed to pursue their goals by exclusively peaceful means. Israel could truthfully cite the Ulster precedent when it says it cannot sit down with Hamas until it renounces violence.
Yet such a statement would be fraught with risk. Because what has been the key advice of those republicans who have met Hamas leaders? Keep the movement together. It helps no one if the Hamas top brass follow Sinn Féin’s lead and sign up for peaceful means, only for a “Real Hamas” to pop up the next day to take their place. Adams and Martin McGuinness resisted any move that would cause a republican split. The result is that when they were finally ready to do a deal, the deal held.
Once negotiations have begun, Northern Ireland offers paradoxical advice: each side must strengthen its adversary. London and Dublin were always careful to ensure that any move on either the nationalist or unionist side did not go unrewarded. If it had, those making the compromises would have lost face in the eyes of their own people.
Israel has not been as wise. Hamas is strong now in part because their Fatah rivals were made to look like dupes before their fellow Palestinians. They gave up the “armed struggle”, they recognised Israel – and what did they get for it? More checkpoints and settlers on the West Bank than before.
In this context, one of the greatest missed opportunities was the 2005 Israeli pullout from Gaza. Instead of symbolically handing over the territory to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, thereby giving the moderates a prize, Israel withdrew unilaterally – allowing Hamas to claim it as a victory for violence.
It is too late to undo that now. Instead Israel will have to emulate the long, patient work that finally brought peace to Northern Ireland. It will have to use indirect channels to reach those within Hamas – and they exist – who are reconcilable. It will then have to cajole and encourage them towards the position that would enable them to be part of peace talks.
That need not take decades. There are elements within Hamas readier than most Israelis realise to negotiate an end to occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. But Israel has to decide that a meaningful peace is its goal too, starting with an understanding that this problem will never be solved by force. But it can be solved.
Arafat Adviser: “Abbas moves from one failure to another to the advantage of Israel”
Interview of Hassan Balawi in Le Figaro, 13/Jan/2009 (Thanks FLC)
Peut-on parler d’un échec politique de l’Autorité palestinienne ?
Nous avons l’impression d’un retour en arrière. Les acquis d’Oslo sont partis en fumée avec la deuxième intifada qui n’a pas permis de déboucher sur de nouvelles conquêtes à l’issue de la lutte. Les structures de l’Autorité palestinienne ont été détruites, des militants sont morts, d’autres sont toujours emprisonnés. Et nous avons maintenant un mur de séparation qui a avalé 40 % de notre territoire.
Une réconciliation entre le Fatah et le Hamas est-elle possible ?
“…Les Palestiniens sont responsables de ce qui leur arrive. Ils n’ont pas de stratégie commune et se livrent à de petits calculs avec des ambitions de faction. Mahmoud Abbas conduit des négociations internationales qui ne mènent à rien. Le président palestinien va d’échec en échec pour le plus grand bien d’Israël. Il exprime des souhaits qui restent lettre morte. La résistance du Hamas n’est guère plus productive. Elle n’est pas liée à la recherche de véritables avancées politiques mais à des raisonnements qui visent uniquement à conforter sa propre assise. Le retour au dialogue interpalestinien est indispensable, mais plus le temps passe plus le Hamas va augmenter son niveau d’exigence. Un compromis a été raté en février 2007 lorsque le Hamas avait accepté une participation minoritaire au gouvernement. Il avait également reconnu les principes de la charte de l’OLP, une organisation qu’il pourrait bien au bout du compte intégrer….
“Va-t-on à terme vers deux entités palestiniennes distinctes ?
80 % de l’économie de la bande de Gaza dépend d’Israël, qui veut se débarrasser de ce fardeau. Pour certains à Tel-Aviv, la prise du pouvoir par le Hamas est une occasion historique de couper les ponts une fois pour toutes avec Gaza en laissant à l’Égypte la responsabilité de lui fournir le pétrole, le gaz et tout le reste avec l’aide de pays du Golfe. Ceux-là s’accommoderaient parfaitement de deux mini-États, l’un en Cisjordanie et l’autre constitué de la bande de Gaza. Cette solution permettrait de tirer un trait sur les questions de Jérusalem, du retour des réfugiés et de la création d’un État palestinien dans les frontières de 1967. Mais elle se heurte aux craintes des Égyptiens et des Jordaniens. Le Caire a peur d’une contagion islamiste. Le président Moubarak ne veut pas devoir gérer à ses portes une entité dominée par les Frères musulmans. Et Amman redoute d’être obligé d’intervenir en cas de désordre en Cisjordanie.
Le Hamas a-t-il intérêt à accepter un arrêt des hostilités ?
Il a tout à gagner d’un accord qui lui permettrait pour la première fois d’être reconnu par la communauté internationale comme un interlocuteur incontournable. Il sortirait de cette aventure affaibli militairement, mais politiquement grandi sur la scène palestinienne. Il s’imposerait dans le monde arabe en repreneur du flambeau de la résistance palestinienne, à l’instar de l’OLP dans les années 1970.
(1) Auteur de «Gaza. Dans les coulisses du mouvement national palestinien» (Denoël).
Gaza, Viewed From Cairo, by Michele Dunne, 01.08.2009
What Mubarak appears to want now is a ceasefire that avoids increasing Egyptian responsibility for Gaza and offers Hamas minimal concessions. Egyptian officials denied an Israeli newspaper report that Mubarak told European Union officials during a private meeting Monday that “Hamas must not be allowed to win in Gaza,” but the comment might well reflect his thinking…..
While Mubarak might like to emerge the hero of the current conflict, among his main goals will be the prevention of a large-scale transfer of Gazans into Sinai. In a telling comment to the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on Tuesday, an unnamed Egyptian official explained why Mubarak has resisted heated calls from inside and outside Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, saying the Egyptians expected it would lead to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooding into Sinai and the inevitable reestablishment of semipermanent refugee camps.
Another pressure Mubarak will resist is to take on the administration of Gaza itself, as Egypt did between 1948 and 1967, which has emerged has emerged as a popular Israeli theme in some circles….
Beyond the Palestinians and Israelis, Mubarak also has to contend with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His relations with both are chilly at best, and there are already indications that one or both might try to play the spoiler for any Egyptian effort, in order to show that the road to peace now runs through Damascus and Tehran rather than Cairo. The Iranian speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, arrived in Damascus Wednesday for talks with Hamas and the Syrian government….
Hamas Willing to Accept Weeklong Cease-Fire If Israel Pulls Out
By Massoud A. Derhally, Bloomberg
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Hamas would accept an immediate weeklong cease-fire if it is accompanied by an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, said Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuk.
The group is also demanding that border crossings are opened and is willing to accept European or Turkish monitors at those sites, Abu Marzuk, deputy to the Islamic group’s political leader, Khalid Mashaal, said in an interview yesterday in Damascus.
“We want an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops that entered Gaza,” Abu Marzuk said in the most detailed comments on the talks by a senior Hamas official. He said the group would be willing to negotiate a yearlong cease- fire during the cessation.
Israel is sending a Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, to Cairo to meet today with Egyptian diplomats who have been trying to work out a cease-fire for the past four days, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said.
“Israel seeks a sustained and durable calm in which there will be a total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel and the end of arms transfers to Hamas,” Regev said. “On these principles Israel is ready for a long-term period of quiet.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly said they will press forward with their 2 1/2-week military campaign in Gaza until Hamas stops firing rockets at southern Israeli towns and a new border arrangement is set up to end arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza. Israel has limited the flow of goods and fuel into Gaza through an 18-month blockade since the group seized control of the coastal enclave in June 2007.
“There will be intense pressure on Israel’s leadership to continue the Gaza offensive until Hamas’s leadership is killed or captured,” said Josh Landis, co-director at the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. “This is what they failed to do in Lebanon in 2006.”….