Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The scene of Fatahland flowering as Hamastan wilts is sheer fantasy

There are huge dangers in offering Palestinians a choice of statelets - it will only push Hamas further into Iran's orbit

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday June 20, 2007
The Guardian

".......The western strategy, endorsed not only in Jerusalem and Washington but by European foreign ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, is to set up an elaborate demonstration exercise for the Palestinians. They will be offered two alternative Palestines and asked to choose which one best represents their future.

On the West Bank shall arise Fatahland, soon to be showered with cash from the very western tap that stayed shut as long as Hamas were in the picture. President Mahmoud Abbas will not only receive money but multiple goodwill gestures from Israel: an easing of roadblocks, cooperation on security, a glimpse of the "political horizon", meaning the prospect of negotiations aimed at an eventual Palestinian state. If things go well, a high-ranking Israeli government official told me yesterday, Israel could once again return chunks of West Bank territory to Palestinian control, as it did during the Oslo process.

In Gaza, meanwhile, would fester the new land of Hamastan, an Islamist-ruled hellhole shunned by the rest of the world, starved of all but the most emergency humanitarian aid. Where Fatahland would feel the warmth of the west's open arms and deep pockets, Hamastan would know only its cold shoulder. Pretty soon Palestinians would draw the obvious conclusion. As that Israeli government insider puts it, "They'll understand that moderate policies bring home the bacon, while the other road brings only pain.".......

But it is badly mistaken. The sounder approach is surely to recognise that Hamas is now a fact of life in Palestine, just as political Islam is a fact of life in the Middle East. We may wish it were not so - I certainly do - but we cannot wish it away. Hamas enjoys a democratic mandate; it now rules a territory that threatens to be a Taliban-style state on Israel's doorstep. It simply makes no sense to pretend that it does not exist.

The choice now, says Tel Aviv University analyst Gary Sussman, is either "to isolate Hamas, pushing it further into the Iranian orbit, or to engage it, luring it into the western and Sunni orbit". This has to be the more pragmatic course. The story of the last few decades has been a constant effort to wish the Palestinians were represented by people other than those who actually led them. Each of those attempts has ended in failure. It's time to recognise reality and to follow the oldest advice in the diplomats' handbook: you don't make peace with your friends - you make peace with your enemies."

No comments: