Divide, Bribe, Coerce and Conquer
By RAMZY BAROUD
"Attempts to coerce Palestinians into submission have not always manifested themselves in the crude form of a tank, a bullet, the withholding of aid or the denial of freedom of movement. These efforts were at times more imaginative and shrewd, through the sponsoring and espousing of factionalism, the purchasing of the integrity of a politician, pressing Palestinians themselves to promote foreign agendas, whether knowingly or unwittingly.
It was recently revealed that a few individuals, affiliated with the Hamas government and Hamas-dominated parliament were allowed entry into Britain. News of the visit was first unveiled by the disingenuous Israeli media, which concocted a skewed version of the event, claiming that the delegation met with Israeli 'academicians' in London.Disappointingly to many, Ahmed Yousef, top advisor to the Palestinian Prime Minister, as well as a less know member of Parliament - vehemently refused to participate.
The last eight months were indeed long enough to force Hamas to reconsider its approach to politics: breaking the siege on Gaza, it deduced, starts in Washington, with Israeli consent of course. Washington, however, is a long way from Gaza, since the distance between the latter and Damascus and Tehran is too close for comfort from the US viewpoint and its own checks and balances; London, thus, was the most practicable destination.
The meetings in London were held under the guise of 'dialogue', where Hamas would articulate its position to an exaggeratedly sympathetic audience; and in turn, the latter, would take their notes and lobby politicians for a change in course. The content of the meetings, despite the overt secrecy, was leaked, though not in full, all allowing for the following deductions:
First, Neo-conservative elements have for long, (but increasingly since Hamas' political rise, envisaged an arch of Islamic extremism) that goes all the way from Tehran to Gaza, passing through Damascus and South Lebanon. Hamas would eventually become a major component in this arch, due to the symbolic importance of the Palestinian problem to Muslims worldwide, and the direct nature of its conflict with Israel.
Second, the attempt to overthrow Hamas with the help of disgruntled elements within its rival Fatah, through numerous means has failed; a popular uprising, an outcome of the collective punishment and pressure on the Palestinian people through the withholding of aid is too slow and uncertain a strategy. The waiting game is backfiring as 'extremist' elements within Hamas are predictably falling prey to Iran's strategic designs, while the 'moderates' are being marginalized to the political fringes of Gaza. Thus, time was of essence.
Third, since Washington has raised its conditions for engaging Hamas much higher than the latter's ability to compromise, it was not possible for the Bush administration to talk to the Islamic movement openly; the Blair government however, who has always left a wide margin to politically reposition itself more freely in the Middle East has a better chance to engage Hamas, even if unofficially. The engagement had to be conducted in a most careful manner, so as not to raise suspicions regarding London's pro US and Israel stances, or doubt the integrity of its so-called 'war on terror'.
Fourth, the 'discussions' in London were clearly geared toward wooing Hamas to reveal its moderate face, thus to offset and perhaps challenge the extremists in Damascus, therefore, creating yet another rift within the Palestinian camp, to be added to numerous rifts which already exist within their ranks.
This rift would be much more treacherous, because it carries all the symptoms of Oslo: good Palestinians singled out and groomed for a photo op to be scheduled later, secret 'dialogue', followed by 'memorandums of understandings', then treaties, then VIP cards to those involved in the positive engagement and lonely prison cells to those who dare defy it. But it was this exact same plot that led to the killing of thousands of Palestinians, and hundreds of Israelis, the destruction of thousands of homes, the confiscation of more land to make way for the illegal Jewish settlements and the Separation Wall."