Monday, June 28, 2010
Legitimizing Hamas rule
The White House’s June 20 statement on the Gaza blockade shows that the Obama administration has abandoned all strategic concepts in its approach to the matter.
The White House’s June 20 statement on Gaza is immensely revealing of the shortcomings in US policy. It isn’t at all just a matter of policy toward Israel but of a failure to consider the broader US national interest. Here’s the real issue: Does the US want the long-term existence of a revolutionary Islamist mini-state on the Mediterranean, spreading terrorism and anti-Semitism, eager to go to war with Israel again, working hard to block any Israel-Palestinian peace, expelling Christians, oppressing women and subverting moderate Arab states? It begins: “The president has described the situation in Gaza as unsustainable and has made clear that it demands fundamental change.”
One would expect the words “unsustainable” and “demands fundamental change” to mean the president demands the overthrow of the Hamas regime. In fact, it signifies the exact opposite: He demands that regime’s stabilization.
The statement continues by describing Obama’s plan to give roughly $200 million to Gaza as “a down payment on the US commitment to the people of Gaza, who deserve a chance to take part in building a viable, independent state of Palestine, together with those who live in the West Bank.”
Just think of that paragraph’s implications: a “down payment” on a “US commitment,” that is, not an act of generosity for which the US must get something in return. Rather, the phrasing makes it seem the US owes them the money.
Moreover, such aid retards rather than advances building a Palestinian state by shoring up a Hamas government which is against the Palestinian Authority, against peace with Israel and against a two-state solution.
Note, too, that Hamas is put on an equal plane with the PA. And couldn’t the administration have said that the state must be built in the context of the Oslo Accords or under the PA’s leadership? There is no mention of even the Quartet conditions: Nothing is said about Hamas abandoning terrorism or accepting Israel’s existence or submitting to the PA as the legitimate government.
The statement is absolutely unconditional. Only the “humanitarian” consideration counts, as if the US government is a community organizer building a welfare program.
THIS ABDICATION of strategy and politics would be like the US making a commitment to help the people of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War or North Korea during the Korean War by pouring in money and goods unconditionally, saying this would help lead to a moderate unified state.
Don’t those who govern the Gaza Strip as a dictatorship (an anti-Semitic, anti-American, terrorist, revolutionary Islamist, would-be genocidal, Christian-expelling, women-repressing and allied to Iran dictatorship at that) matter one bit? The announcement continued by welcoming Israel’s new policy as something that “should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons.”
In other words, the US has no problem with Hamas ruling Gaza as long as weapons are kept out. There is absolutely no strategic concept in the US approach.
Meanwhile, the White House makes clear that Israel’s concessions aren’t sufficient. Blandly but incredibly, the statement continues: “We will work...
to explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, including greater freedom of movement and commerce between Gaza and the West Bank.”
Now while it is true that this could mean PA supporters go to Gaza and subvert the regime’s power, it’s more likely that the practical implication would be that Hamas militants, bomb-makers and agitators would get into the West Bank. When Israel restricts the passage between the two areas, would it then be accused of inhibiting Palestinian “freedom of movement?” Did anyone in the administration think of conditioning the easing of the embargo and the US aid on Gilad Schalit’s release or some other Hamas concession? Of course not.
And the statement ends: “We urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. There is no need for unnecessary confrontations.”
Of course, all of this won’t discourage ships sailing and pro-Hamas militants seeking confrontation. After all, Western policy teaches them that confrontation means massive victories in demonizing Israel and gaining concessions. Why should anyone dismiss them as “unnecessary”? In this statement there is not one word criticizing Hamas. And there is no hint that any thought has been given to the strategic implications of accepting a Hamas regime and allowing it to normalize the economic situation even while it is creating a nightmare political and social situation for Gazans.
Let’s assume the administration had the same goals but went about it with different rhetoric. It would condemn Hamas extensively but then say that, of course, it should not be able to hold the people in Gaza as hostages and that they should not suffer just because they are ruled by a terrible dictatorship.
The statement could look forward to the day when they are liberated from these extremist, repressive rulers. I’m not saying this is my preferred policy, but it is a way for the Obama administration to implement its policy without abandoning any strategic interest in weakening Iran-backed revolutionary Islamism and terrorism.
In other words, the administration could have said: Hamas is our enemy; the people of Gaza are our friends. We don’t want you to suffer. We want you to get rid of Hamas, join with the PA and make a lasting peace with Israel. If you are moderate and abandon terrorism, you will be better off and get your own state through negotiations with Israel.
But that was not the strategic line taken.
In this bland little White House statement we see the current US government’s massive strategic failure.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com