Thursday, July 30, 2009

There can be no Middle East settlement without Hamas

By throwing their weight behind repression on the West Bank, the US and Britain are only making a viable peace less likely

Seumas Milne, Wednesday 29 July 2009

"......But the only deal envisaged by the US is one with the unpopular Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president expired last January. As the Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, John Kerry, put it recently: "Hamas has already won one election – we cannot allow them to win another."

And far from supporting the Palestinian national unity necessary to make any peace agreement stick, America and its allies are doing everything possible to deepen the split between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement. In fact, the US, Britain and the EU make support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) dependent on a continuing security crackdown against Hamas activists in the West Bank – justified as fighting terrorism – which makes reconciliation between the two Palestinian parties ever more far-fetched.

As a result, more than 1,000 political prisoners are reported by human rights groups to be held without trial in PA jails, while extrajudicial killings, torture and raids on Hamas-linked social institutions have become routine by security forces trained and funded by the US and the EU. And heading the effort to build up Abbas's forces that carry out these operations is US Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton – increasingly regarded as the real power in the West Bank – supported by British officials and the Foreign Office-sponsored security firm Libra Advisory Group, fresh from working for the occupation forces in Iraq........

The aim of Abbas, under US and EU guidance, is to complete the transformation of Fatah from a national liberation movement into the governing party of a state that doesn't exist. Money and gerrrymandering are likely to see off internal opposition, such as from the grassroots West Bank Fatah leader Hussam Khader, who calls for unity with Hamas and a twin strategy of resistance and negotiation.

"We expect nothing from Obama," Khader told me yesterday. Even if Abbas were to sign up to the half-baked collection of walled-in West Bank bantustans masquerading as an independent state that currently seems the most the US might be ready to squeeze out of Israel, he would not be able to sustain or legitimise it. Until the US feels it necessary to use its leverage with Israel to deliver something closer to a genuinely just settlement, the prospect must be of renewed violence, with ever greater global consequences. "

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