Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gaza: Another Mess Made in U.S.

A Very Good Piece
By Tony Karon

"......Everyone following the conflict in Gaza knows full well that the reason for the violence is not that Palestinians have not “sorted out their politics” — they’ve made their political preferences abundantly clear in democratic elections, and later in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the Saudis. The problem is that the U.S. and the corrupt and self-serving warlords of Fatah did not accept either the election result or the unity government, and have conspired actively ever since to reverse both by all available means, including starving the Palestinian economy of funds, refusing to hand over power over the Palestinian Authority to the elected government, and arming and training Fatah loyalists to militarily restore their party’s power. Unfortunately, after three days of some of the most savage fighting ever seen in Gaza, that strategy now lies in tatters. Fatah is, quite simply, no longer a credible fighting force in Gaza, where it has long been in decline as a credible political force......

At about the same time, Conflict Forum reported on the aggressive campaign by White House Middle East policy chief Elliot Abrams to provoke a coup by Fatah against Hamas. The U.S. policy was to prevent a Palestinian unity government from forming, and once it was formed, the policy became to topple it. And Robert Malley and Henry Siegman warned that the White House policy failed to reckon with the fact that Fatah had been defeated politically, and would not be able to restore its leadership of the Palestinians through a putsch. Even if his forces could be boosted, they warned, “(they) will remain a far less motivated one (than Hamas), seen by many as doing America’s and Israel’s bidding. In such a contest, success is far from assured, as we should know from Iraq, Lebanon and, indeed, Palestine itself.”.......

Indeed, in this month of observing the anniversary of the 1967 war, Hamas appears to have taken a leaf from Israel’s playbook in that conflict. Instead of standing by and letting Dahlan set the terms of the conflict, slowly raising the temperature of the confrontation in keeping with the capabilities of his forces, Hamas went to war this time to destroy Fatah’s capability to fight in Gaza. Having trounced Fatah on the polls, it now moved to trounce them on the streets in a well-orchestrated military campaign that scattered and neutralized Dahlan’s forces. Many of them surrendered or simply melted away; some 40 officers of the U.S.-trained presidential guard were last seen blowing a hole into the Israeli wall around Gaza through which they fled to Egypt, where there commander, Dahlan, happened to be anyway.

The rout has been complete in Gaza, forcing Abbas to accept Hamas’s terms for a new truce. Gaza, as Abbas aides have said bluntly, “is lost.” Another spectacular Middle East debacle for the Bush Administration’s trophy cabinet. Hundreds of Palestinians have died and thousands more have had their lives ruined by the brutal arrogant folly of Rice, Abrams and company. Hamas is in power because the Palestinian people wanted it there, and no amount of economic strangulation or proxy warfare has altered that fact. It didn’t have to go this way; this was the route that Washington chose, believing it would prevail......

As, indeed, it was. Instead, the U.S. talked the Europeans around to reluctantly signing on to their siege strategy until Hamas was ready to symbolically surrender. That didn’t happen. Now, Hamas has made clear that it is an intractable reality, although the fighting has likely greatly increased the balance within the organization in favor of the more confrontational element. And Dahlan turned out to be a Paper Pinochet.

Still, given their spectacular inability to comprehend the reasons for their defeats in the Palestinian territory, I don’t expect the U.S. to begin engaging pragmatically with the reality of Hamas as an indispensable component of the Palestinian leadership. Instead, given the endless capacity for self-delusion of the people running U.S. Middle East policy, I fully expect to see the U.S. rush resources to Egypt where Dahlan can be reunited with his scattered forces in preparation for his next historic role — at the head of a “Bay of Pigs” type invasion of Gaza."

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