Condi’s Savage War on the Palestinians

In the coming weeks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will cluck regretfully about the violence unfolding in the Palestinian territories as if the chaos in Gaza has as little to do with her as, say, the bizarrely warm winter weather in New York. And much of the U.S. media will concur by covering that violence as if it is part of some inevitable showdown in the preternaturally violent politics of the Palestinians. But any honest assessment will not fail to recognize that the increasingly violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah is not only a by-product of Secretary Rice’s economic siege of the Palestinians; it is the intended consequence of her savage war on the Palestinian people – a campaign of retribution and collective punishment for their audacity to elect leaders other than those deemed appropriate to U.S. agendas. Moreover, the fact that the conflict is now coming to a head is a product of Rice’s micromanagement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s political strategy – against his own better instincts.

Rice’s siege strategy was premised on the belief that the economic torture of the entire Palestinian population would either force the Hamas government to chant the catechism of recognizing Israel-renouncing violence-abiding by previous agreements (again, Israeli leaders have to giggle at that one!) — or else, preferably, force the Palestinian electorate to recant the heresy of choosing Hamas as its government in the first place. Frustrated by the failure of this collective punishment to produce the desired results — and mindful of the need to quickly reorder Palestinian politics in order to satisfy the urgent need of the increasingly marginal Arab autocracies that Washington seeks to mobilize against Iran — she has stepped things up a notch, cajoling the hapless Abbas to take steps to toppled a government democratically elected only 11 months ago and beefing up the forces of the Fatah warlords dedicated to taking down Hamas in order to restore their own power of patronage.

Update: Thanks to Paul Woodward at Conflicts Forum — the absolutely indispensable project launched by Mark Perry and Alistair Crooke (whose work engaging with the thinking of Hamas, Hizballah and other Islamist groups I have previously highlighted) offering unrivaled perspective based on access to the thinking of groupings that are fast becoming the key force in Middle Eastern politics — do yourself a favor and subscribe to their free updates, because each one contains essential perspective you won’t find elsewhere. Anyway, thanks to Conflicts Forum, we now know also that Elliot Abrams, the last of the Likudniks in senior Bush Administration positions, has spoken openly of the need for the U.S. to fund, arm and train Fatah activists to launch a “hard coup” against the elected Hamas government (Abrams, of course, is a veteran of Reagan -era Latin America policies, so he has some experience in these things.) This is more berserk social engineering from the neocon Likud crowd, and most of the U.S. government (as well as the Israelis) know that the extensive effort to promote a coup are doomed to fail, but fail bloodily. Read the whole thing, it’s a fascinating account that confirms all the reasons why even Poppy Bush considers Condi Rice a “disappointment.”

Even Middle East experts and State Department officials close to Rice consider her comments about Palestinian violence dangerous, and have warned her that if the details of the U.S. program become public her reputation could be stained. In fact, Pentagon officials concede, Hamas’s inability to provide security to its own people and the clashes that have recently erupted have been seeded by the Abrams plan. Israeli officials know this, and have begun to rebel. In Israel, at least, Rice’s view that Hamas can be unseated is now regularly, and sometimes publicly, dismissed.

According to a December 25 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, senior Israeli intelligence officials have told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that not only can Hamas not be replaced, but that its rival, Fatah, is disintegrating. Any hope for the success of an American program aimed at replacing Hamas, these officials argued, will fail. These Israeli intelligence officials also dismissed Palestinian President Abu Mazen’s call for elections to replace Hamas — saying that such elections would all but destroy Fatah. As Haaretz reported: “Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Sunday [December 24] that should elections be held in the Palestinian Authority, Fatah’s chances of winning would be close to zero. Diskin said during Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the Fatah faction is in bad shape, and therefore Israel should expect Hamas to register a sweeping victory.”

Apparently Jordan’s King Abdullah agrees. On the day this article appeared, December 25, Abdullah kept Palestinian President Abu Mazen waiting for six hours to see him in Amman. Eventually, Abdullah told Abu Mazen that he should go home — and only come to see him again when accompanied by Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Most recently, Saudi officials have welcomed Haniyeh to Saudi Arabia for talks, having apparently made public their own views on the American program to replace Hamas.

Last week, in an excellent cautionary commentary that – interestingly enough – ran in the International Herald Tribune but not in the New York Times, Robert Malley and Henry Siegman made plain the folly underlying the Rice-Abrams strategy.

They write:

A civil war — for that is what it would be — would spell disaster for the Palestinian people. The presidential guard might become a more formidable fighting force than Hamas, but it will remain a far less motivated one, 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.

Even assuming Fatah were to prevail, it would at most drive Hamas underground, leading it to resume suicide bombings and increase rocket assaults while retaining the loyalty of a committed rank-and-file. Does one seriously believe that a genuine negotiation process can emerge from a battered, polarized Palestinian society, renewed Palestinian violence and predictable disproportionate Israeli retaliation?

The most fundamental miscalculation of all is the notion that there can be a peace process with a Palestinian government that excludes Hamas. Hamas is not an ephemeral phenomenon that can be extinguished by force of arms. It is as permanent a feature of the Palestinian political landscape as Fatah, which means that no enduring change in relations between Israelis and Palestinians — and certainly no end to violence, or beginning of a political process, let alone meaningful Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank — can occur over its opposition.

Abbas is a man of good intention, but has no political base of his own. His power is derived from two constituencies: The remnants of a Fatah organization in steady decline over the past decade, and all but shattered by its defeat in the January 2006 elections, its only organized formations now being squadrons of gunmen answerable to various warlords, and the bureaucracy of the PA. And the United States, at least to the extent that it represents the only game in town for the realization of Abbas’s preferred strategy of patient diplomacy in pursuit of Palestinian statehood, because it’s the only party capable of delivering Israeli compliance. That, of course, is an abstraction, because no matter how capable the U.S. is of delivering Israeli compliance with a peace deal, it has no intention of doing so — not under the Bush Administration, and I have to say, I’m pessimistic about the chances of the Democrats doing it, either. Still, Abbas has no alternative but to jump through whatever hoops Washington places before him, because once he gives up hope of a U.S. mediated solution, his own political role is over.

Curiously enough, in this instance the interests of the U.S. Administration and those of the corrupt and self-serving Fatah warlords and bureaucrats coincide entirely. So entrenched was the sense in Fatah’s leadership of entitlement to rule over the Palestinians that its activist leadership had been pressing Abbas, from the moment the election results were announced, to move to topple Hamas. The fact that Fatah had been repudiated by the people would have demanded a thorough reorganization and democratization, a political “long march” in which the organization restored its standing among ordinary Palestinians by standing by them, working for them, listening to them and articulating their aspirations, as Hamas had done so successfully. Instead, the Fatah leadership demanded that Abbas make a coup and reinstate them, restoring their power of patronage.

And Condoleezza Rice, in her typically callous arrogance (remember those “birthpangs of a New Middle East” that shook Beirut last summer?) supported them: The Palestinian people would have to pay for their folly in defying her and electing Hamas, and would have to keep paying until they were ready to recant.

Malley, who knows Abbas well from his own days as a Clinton Administration official at Camp David – one who declined to drink the self-serving Kool Aid his old boss offered by way of explaining the all-too-predictable failure failure of those talks — makes clear that Rice’s strategy actually contradicts Abbas’s own preferences, but that he’s being forced to play along or else reconcile himself to oblivion.

Although [Hamas] is not willing to formally renounce violence, it is prepared to abide by a comprehensive cease-fire, and has proved its ability to implement it when Israel fully reciprocates.

Hamas is willing to deal directly with Israel on day-to- day matters, indirectly on more substantive ones. It will acquiesce in negotiations between Abbas and Olmert and abide by any agreement ratified by popular referendum.

Hamas will not, however, recognize Israel. That’s unfortunate. But is it really worth plunging the region into greater chaos because Hamas will not confer upon Israel the legitimacy the Jewish state is granted by virtually every nation in the world?
This alternative is one Abbas advocated from the start, which is why he chose to promote the Islamists’ entry into political life in the first place and why he courageously resisted repeated pressure — foreign but also, sadly, domestic — to violently confront Hamas. His resistance, apparently, may be running out. Faced with Western inflexibility and Islamist obstinacy, he is being forced down a violent path for which he was not made and from which he is unlikely to survive as Palestinian leader.

The rational thing to do after Hamas won was to accept the verdict of the electorate and try to engage – by setting red lines based on actions rather than empty declarations for continued funding. Instead, Rice opted for setting conditions that Hamas would regard as symbolic surrender, and which would be meaningless anyway (frankly, Israel routinely engages in this kind of stunt where it demands things of the Palestinians precisely because it knows they won’t do them, and uses that as an excuse to explain the absence of peace, whereas Israel is not held to account for its own refusal to withdraw to its 1967 borders, which remains the only basis for an internationally recognized peace settlement).

Abbas, still mindful of the national interest, sought a unity government with Hamas, based on a compromise document forged between Fatah and Hamas prisoners held in Israel. But Rice was having none of it — it didn’t require Hamas to grovel sufficiently and apologize for disrupting the Bush administration’s somnambulent stroll in Middle Eastern fantasy — and pressed Abbas to abandon the plan, and instead seek national unity on terms less acceptable to Hamas.

And then, together with the venal warlords and corrupt bureaucrats of Fatah, Rice finally prevailed on Abbas to threaten to call new elections — which he did three weeks ago, touching off the latest bout of violence. Hamas is unlikely to accept the call — why would it, since it has been forced on the Palestinians from outside — and any election held without their participation would be meaningless. No matter, the U.S. appears to be pressing ahead in forcing Abbas into a violent confrontation with Hamas. (Was it just a Freudian slip that Abbas made clear on Saturday in declaring Hamas’s militias in Gaza “illegal” that he had, earlier in the day been on the phone with Condi?) So, Gaza will bleed. And it will starve. And it will burn. Until the Palestinians are ready to rue the day they ever dared to choose their own leaders over those chosen for them by Rice, and Bush and Blair.

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27 Responses to Condi’s Savage War on the Palestinians

  1. h. kim says:

    It doesn’t serve the interests of the current administrations in U.S. and Israel that the Palestinians somehow manage to kiss and make up among themselves–if they do, and somehow manage to put up a position backed by consensus amogn themselves, they have no choice back to put up some unpleasant (to their constituents) response. Either they have to ignore Palestinian position more or less altogether, but without the usual excuse that “these people can’t get their own house in order, so we’ll ignore them until they do” (which would make the “realists” among them buckle); or they have to make real compromises, say, on the settlements (which would make the “extremists” among them buckle.) So much better to brew conflict among the Palestinians than be forced into making a difficult decision…

    Of course, the downside is that it makes a realistic long-term solution ever more difficult, plus the intra-Palestinian conflict does spill over occasionally in random acts of terrorism agaisnt Israelis, or even Americans. But random acts of terrorism does nothing to fundamentally change the political positions in either Tel Aviv or Washington, except, possibly, strengthen the hands of the hardliners. As for a “realistic long term solution,” well, it’s not clear there’s even a consensus among the main playmakers that they really want a long-term solution at any rate.

  2. Arnold Evans says:

    This is what a two state solution is. Unless you are willing to return the refugees – in other words defeat Zionism – you have to follow Condi’s policy.

  3. It has become very clear that Rice is a hypocrite and so much apart of the Bush delusion that if it is not an idea or demand put forth by the US, then it is wrong and unacceptable. Both Bush and Rice publically stated before the election in Palistine that they would accept any government democratically elected. So… what happens, their team loses and the USA crys foul and wants to change the pre-accepted rules. It is time the peoples of the world to tell the USA that they are no linger welcome and that no country will accept their help or doctrine. As for Israel, the USA has to stop protecting them and let them fight their own battles, A quick solution to the Middle East unrest would be to drop a nuke in the middle of TelAviv…no more problem and peace would reign.

  4. Debbie Gordon says:

    The problem here is that the two state solution is dead and has been for a while. The Bush administration killed it in a letter to Sharon saying that West Bank settlements were to be considered “realities” on the ground. Too bad for both peoples, since in opinion polls both say they want a two state solution. The U.S. and Israel, refusing to give back the Occupied Territories, have endangered the entire region, because there will be no ethnic cleansing of Palestinians inside Israel with citizenship, and there will be no Palestinian “state” on anything less than Palestine at the 1967 borders along with the necessary sovereignty over land, water, and air space to have an economy.

    The long march back to a bi-national state in all of historical Palestine for both Palestinians and Israelis has begun. It will get bloodier before it is officially recognized, but the dynamics on the ground have trumped any rhetoric about “two states living side by side in peace and security.”

    BTW, this is an excellent analysis of the current political forces. The Palestinian people will not put up with a coup–soft or hard, especially led by any U.S. administration.

    Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  5. Stewart says:

    When Rice was in Ramallah for 45 minutes or so on July 25th, she told Abbas to “get rid” of Hamas and create an “emergency cabinet”. By that date the Israelis had imprisoned most of the Hamas Cabinet in preparation. This was reported live on CNN – one of those mistakes that happen on a live broadcast. A guest says something that you weren’t expecting, and will never air again. In this instance it was one of Abbas’ advisors, Edward Abbington, who explained what it was that Rice had discussed with Abbas. What it was, was a Coup d’Etat. If 40% of the Democratic election funding had not come from the Israel Lobby, we could have expected that this even be investigated.

  6. Scott says:

    This should be no surprise to anyone that has access to varied sources of information. Unfortunately the average person in the United States is too ‘dumded-down’ by the corporated owned media and corporate sponsored public school curriculum to even mount a critical examination of U.S.-Israeli government foreign policy. If they could they would see rather quickly that neither supports democracy either domestically or abroad because doing so would mean a resonding repudiation of and resistance to their ‘interests’. Anyone who understands the situation in Palestine would recognize immediatley that Hamas is the only organization that provides for the common defense and welfare of the Palestinian people. Call them terrorists all you want. It does not change the fact that they do far more to alleviate the suffering of ordinary people(Healthcare,Schools,Jobs, Security/Defense) than the ‘Government’ ever has. And most importantly in this regard they refuse to recognize Israel, not the right of Jews to live in Palestine!, because to do so would mean accepting Israel as it exists today. Accepting the idea that Israel’s borders can expand ‘as needed’ to maintain a Jewish ethnic majority. Accepting a State that is not a liberal democracy with full rights for all citizens. This it cannot do if it is to claim to be acting for the benefit of the Palestinian people. The Neocons and the Zionists will do what ever it takes to distort this reality and unfortunately the press is helping them to do just that. The Palestinian people will not , and should not give up their struggle for the recognition of their rights as human beings to live in a state of there own governed by those whom they deem to be worthy of doing so. This is the only way to peace for Israel and it’s neighbors. Many Israeli citizens agree………..

    Does the U.S. or Israeli government really want it?

  7. Martin says:

    Israeli politicians and North american Zionists are making political hay out of Amadinejad’s statement about “wiping Israel off the map”. If he actually said that then he deserves to be roundly condemned. Come to think of it, Israel has nuclear weapons and as far as we know (at this point) Iran does not. So who can wipe whom off the map?
    However there is another statement that Amadinejad is supposed to have made also , but this one does not get any attention or traction. He is supposed to have said that if the Europeans committed the holocaust why should Palestinians pay for it with their blood and resources. The Jewish state should be located in EUROPE, not Palestine. Why do people not debate that issue?
    Israel’s tragedy is its arrogance and alliance with ignorant American “leaders. Israel could have had peace with its Arab neighbours, but chosethe military path instead. Because of its military superiority it will win many wars. How long will military dominance last?
    Another point that Israel should be aware of is Henry Kissinger’s statement that it is more dangerous to be an American “ally” than to be an American enemy. How true! Just ask Saddam, the Shah, Marcos and others!

  8. Pingback: Madison-Rafah Journal » Condi’s Savage War on the Palestinians

  9. abraham says:

    Hi Tony.

    I’ve read articles by you in the past but I’m not sure why it took me so long to come across your website (by way of Raw Story).

    I just wanted to let you know I found this article very helpful and informative and look forward to reading more of your work.


  10. Peter Principle says:

    Hamas must be attacked for the same reason 30,000 fresh American troops must be sent to Iraq — to prepare for the coming war with Iran.

    Unfortunately for the empire, its Palestinian proxies aren’t strong enough for the task, just as the IDF wasn’t strong enough to root out Hizbullah this summer and America’s own forces in Iraq STILL won’t be strong enough to protect their over-extended lines of communication and supply — even after the “surge.”

    This is becoming something of pattern, which is what happens when you try to rule an empire with bureaucrats and Stealth bombers.

  11. bob k says:

    I wonder if Condi Rice is a more acceptable black woman
    mask for Eliot Abrams to insert his Zionist ideology into USA foreign policy. You are probably familiar with Tom Berry’s “Hunting Monsters in Jerusulem” in the August 26, 2006 edition of Asia Times. He details Abrams position and influence in US Mid East policy. The following quote from the Barry article would certainly be reason for him to hide in the shadows while Condi Rice takes the heat.
    “Abrams’ strong opinions extend to the religious and national identity of US Jews. A radical separatist, Abrams argues that Jews should not date or attend elementary schools with non-Jews. According to Abrams, “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart – except in Israel – from the rest of the population.”
    Abrams takes care to insist that his positions imply no “disloyalty” to the United States, but at the same time insists that Jews must be loyal to Israel because they “are in a permanent covenant with God and with the land of Israel and its people.”

    Perhaps B. Netanhahu was right when he told the US congress, ” We are all Israelis now.”

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  13. Mo Sabb says:

    “A quick solution to the Middle East unrest would be to drop a nuke in the middle of TelAviv…no more problem and peace would reign.” Dr Robert Millward You are a Idiot and a bigot.

    “The long march back to a bi-national state in all of historical Palestine for both Palestinians and Israelis has begun” Debbie All of historical “Palestine” named so by the English upon taking control fro the Ottomans after world war one, includes Jordan which was designated as part of the land to be givin to the “Zionists” for a Jewish State. After which the english reversed there decision and offered it to the Hashmite tribe as a prize for being loyal. They were loyal to Hitler during WW2 and so were the arabs living in “Palestine” the Grand Mufti was a friend and supporter of Hitler and the final solution. Jews in “Palestine” on the other hand joined the English army and fought on behalf of the allies. This despite the fact that the English refused to allow even one jew into “Palestine” a still realativly empty and barren stretch of land with a population of about a million people. After the war the continued the policy of refusing to allow the survivors entry into the land. and there weremany who liven in camps on Cyprus untill the founding of Israel at which point the Arabs were offered a state of there own and refused. I have to more points for all of you uneducated bigots. Number 1 there only around 500,000 arabs in the land at the time of israels creation and today over 1 million live and hold Israeli Citizenship. While in all of the arab countries when Israel was created there were some million Jews and today there are almost none. Only a few arab nations even allow jews entry let alone the right to live there and can be named on less then a hand. All of the Jews from the arab naions that came to Israel were absorbed into this new developing country while the “Palestinian” Arabs were left by thee brothers to rot in sqalid camps after these same brothers encouraged them to leave there homs and make way for the arab armies to drive the jews into the sea. I never heard of these same Arabs wanting a country when Jordan and Egypt were occuping the West Bank and Gaza Strip or was it because when these Arabs made trouble the Jordainiens rung the town with tanks and sloughtered over 5,000 in less then a day, hardly a tragady compared to an errant shell or the jenin massacre nevermind daily told of Iraqi’s killing Iraqi’s in Iraq or the inhumane and awful punishments given for being ahomosexual, for having an affair, stealing or wanting to convert to a religion other then Islam. These are a tribal backwards people who are kept this way by there own “leaders” who know that knowledge is power and its sad that well educated americans cant even educate themselves to historical truths, rather choosing to belive the crap spewed by cnn and others who when disscusing a situation only represent there agenda. Perhaps one day when we are forced to choose sides between good and evil it will all be clear but till then anything goes in the murky pool of collective PC’isim

  14. lolaone says:

    hi,tonykaron i am so happy to find your writings. we live in a country where all media take their lead from “foxynews” as if they will lose their w.h. priveleges. w has no feeling for these people, i doubt he realizes that they are real people, with families to feed and try to protect. c span cuts off callers if the dare have a note of sympathy in their voices for gaza ,or the west bank. i get so angry. ijust stopped watching washington journal. any representative of thepalestinians gets horribly rude calls, and these callers are allowed to ramble on at length. anyway i will be visiting your site regularly. thanks, lolaone,

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  18. Ellis Goldberg says:

    A Nov. 15 2007 AP story indicates Chevron was fined $30M by the SEC for bribing Saddams’s thugs in the “oil for food” deal and that Chevron may face tax evasion charges later. The bribes were in the millions so someone pretty high up at Chevron had to sign off on the payments. Unfortunately the AP story did not mention Dr. Condoleezza Rice the Chevron board member and the chairman of the “Public Policy Committee” which is responsible for making sure this kind of activity does not happen.

    The Chevron website says the committee’s purposes include “identifying, evaluating and monitoring social, political and environmental trends, issues and concerns”, “analyzing how public policy trends could impact business activities and performance”. Dr. Rice never discussed the Iraqi bribes on the record (not in the minutes) at company meetings. That should not surprise anyone who is familiar with her lack of response to 911 warnings.

    President Clinton put sanctions on Iraq. Actions by Chevron and Rice clearly violated those sanctions and amount to treason. I urge our new Attorney General Michael Mukasey and California Attorney General Jerry Brown determine who at Chevron authorized the millions in bribes.

    Ellis Goldberg
    Danville CA

  19. Samantha says:

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  20. mersin emlak says:

    This is what a two state solution is. Unless you are willing to return the refugees – in other words defeat Zionism – you have to follow Condi’s policy.

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  24. Motion to recognize Palestinian condition unlikely to pass parliament, but it’d be non-binding and would not force English government to improve diplomatic stance • Dangerous Office: Negotiations best approach to meet Palestinian goals though it did.
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