Cracks in the Anti-Hamas Facade

In a fashion typical of its strategic and tactical ineptitude, the Bush Administration has responded to Hamas’s ouster of Fatah security forces from Gaza by madly rushing to cobble together an anti-Hamas alliance through a series of high profile gestures — the high-point of which was Monday’s Sharm el-Sheikh summit between the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authoirity president Mahmoud Abbas. The purpose is for these parties to demonstrate their common resolve to strengthen President Abbas in the face of the challenge from Hamas. The U.S. made sure that Israel showed up with some concrete offers of “help” for Abbas, while the Arab states signaling their support for the Fatah leader — and the idea that gathering this crowd around a table would give some impetus to restarting talks towards a final-status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians — would leave Hamas isolated and weakened.

But to anyone paying even cursory attention, the fault line that runs through the middle of this plan is patently obvious: Bluntly put, Israel and the U.S. on the one hand, and the Arab regimes and Fatah on the other, want very different outcomes in the Palestinian territories, and bringing them together in this way only highlights those differences.

The Arab regimes are not so naive as to buy into the notion that Hamas can be excluded from Palestinian political life — it is the elected government, and speaks for close to half of the Palestinian population. In the last Palestinian election, it thrashed Fatah not only in Gaza, but also in most of the major West Bank towns and cities. While rallying against its armed takeover in Gaza, what the Arabs are demanding is that Hamas recognize the authority of President Abbas (which, by the way, Hamas has done, even since taking power in Gaza — it is Abbas’s side that has the greater problem recognizing the legitimacy and authority of Hamas as an elected government). The Arabs are making very clear that their goal is to revive the Mecca Agreement that brought Hamas and Fatah together in a unity government. That remains a plausible goal, not least because Hamas has indicated a similar goal — although the politicking will be tough and it is unlikely that the same Fatah warlords who, with the backing of the U.S., refused to submit to the unity agreement last time would do so this time. Still, the basic message of the Arabs is that Hamas must be brought back within the umbrella of Palestinian unity; they know it can’t be defeated through isolation and repression.

The U.S. and Israel, of course, insist that Hamas must be isolated and that there can be no revival of the Mecca agreement. At U.S. prodding, Israel has agreed to release some of the Palestinian Authority finances it has withheld, and Prime Minister Olmert says he’ll release some 250 Fatah prisoners although none with “blood on their hands” — i.e. no Marwan Barghouti, the only Fatah leader capable of reversing the movement’s precipitous decline. Olmert may also be under pressure to lift a few checkpoints, even to symbolically dismantle one or two of the settlemetn outposts deemed “illegal” even by Israel (as opposed to by the international community, which regards all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as in violation of the Geneva Convention). But he’s already made clear that he will take such steps only if Abbas demonstrates, to Israel’s satisfaction, his willingness to “fight terror.”

And even as the Arab states demand that Israel begin moving towards final-status negotiations with Abbas based on a return to 1967 borders, Olmert has signaled he has no interest in even opening such talks any time soon.

Essentially, you can expect Israel to allow a fraction of the money it owes the Palestinian Authority into the coffers of Abbas’s government, and make a few symbolic gestures — but nothing close to anything that would genuinely “help” Abbas by showing the Palestinian people that following his path offers the prospect of ending the occupation. And even the little that’s on offer comes only if he stays out of a unity government with Hamas.

So, the latest U.S. plan is on a familiar hiding to nothing, precisely because it fails to address the basic problem: Hamas defeated Fatah because Fatah had proved itself unable to end the occupation; the Arab regimes and the Fatah leaders know that the only way they can be revived and strengthened is for Fatah’s path of engagement with the West and Israel to show results, i.e. concrete steps to end the occupation; but Israel has no intention of taking steps now to end its occupation of the West Bank — together with the U.S., it is essentially expecting Abbas and Fatah to police the status quo. Which is what got them into trouble in the first place.

Let’s just say that the best thing Hamas has going for it right now is the limits on how far the American and Israelis are prepared to go in addressing Palestinian national rights.

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35 Responses to Cracks in the Anti-Hamas Facade

  1. Earl Divoky says:

    Hamas may yet find themselves echoing Arafat’s sentiment on the guileless stupidity of the Zionists: “In a way we are lucky to have the Israelis as our enemy–they have saved us many times!”

  2. Diaa says:

    Killing one man is an unforgivable crime, but killing a whole nation (Palestine) is something understandable to manyof Israel supporters.
    Hamas late leader Rantisi (assassinated by Israel in Gaza) used to show the key of his house in Yafa and ask don’t I have the right to fight to get back my huse?
    Ask yourself that every Israeli supporter.

  3. Abe D says:

    Going back to recent history of 1988 when the first Intifada (uprising) lit up, it was mainly led by the Islamist groups and their supporters from among the secular Palestinian national factions. The Fatah exiles were at the time in Tunisia and were seen by the average oppressed Palestinian as hopeless in putting an end to the occupation. It was the Israeli vision and plan according to former Israeli prime minister Isaac Rabin to allow the Fatah exiles to return to the occupied territories to offset their rivals of the Islamist groups and create this internal tension which would give the IDF a little break and divert the Palestinian attention from the ultimate support for the hardliners of Islamist visionaries. This settled understanding by the Israelis that Fatah factions were the least of evil when it comes to compromises addressing the Palestinian real issues was always clear to the Israelis, which understanding has not changed much in recent years. On the other hand, the success of the Fatah factions in the eyes of Palestinians is conditioned by how far the representation can bring concrete results in terms of restoring the Palestinian right to be free. This expectation of Fatah will continue to place a vice-hammer pressure exterted by opposing demands from the Israelis as well as the Palestinians. Israel at the end will not allow Fatah to exercise its full representation authority to draw benefits in favor of the Palestinian interest beyond what the Israelis are willing to compromise. So the future of the whole dynamics which govern the relationship between Israel and the Fatah factions is fragile and best can be described as temporary which feeds off political tension among Palestinians. Even if all Palestinians ralley around Fatah in the near future out of despair and unbearable isolation, Fatah will not succeed simply because Fatah will not be able deliver adequate expectations to the eager Palestinians as the Israelis continue to cling to their expansive policy, let alone their willingness to address the real Palestinian question, that is, end of occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.

  4. Martin says:

    Imagine a motley crew of clowns like the ones at the top of your article! What do Ehud Olmert and Hosni Mubarak have to laugh about? Are they making fun of Abbas, Sharon’s “plucked chicken”? Any “leader” that is backed by America is doomed!! America has a long , sordid history of backnin LOSERS. For Abbas to receive the backing of Israel and America is the kiss of death! Kissinger once famously said that it is more dangerous to be America’s friend than it’s foe. That is the only ststement that Kissinger made that has any truth in it.
    That should serve as a reminder to ISRAEL as well!

  5. steadfast says:

    It is difficult to understand how so many leaders could conspire so consistently to abate the appalling injustice perpetuated on the Palestenians by Isreal.

    The same injustice inherent in occupation has now been extended to Iraq in the name of democracy.

    It shows the moral emptiness and selective nature of justice in the present world order. It also reveals the absolute corruption and abuse inherent in unchecked power as currently exercised by America.

    As long as American politics is hostage to Isreali interest so long will the crises in the middle east and world at large contiue until something eventually gives.

    It is inevitable that there will be a price for this level of injustice that is allowed to continue for so long

  6. steadfast says:

    It is difficult to understand how so many leaders could conspire so consistently to abate the appalling injustice perpetuated on the Palestenians by Isreal.

    The same injustice inherent in occupation has now been extended to Iraq in the name of democracy.

    It shows the moral emptiness and selective nature of justice in the present world order. It also reveals the absolute corruption and abuse inherent in unchecked power as currently exercised by America.

    As long as American politics is hostage to Isreali interest so long will the crises in the middle east and world at large contiue until something eventually gives.

    It is inevitable that there will be a price for this level of injustice that is allowed to continue for so long

  7. Roger Lafontaine says:

    The Israelis claim that they have ‘made the desert bloom’. For themselves perhaps, for the American and Russian Jews who have traveled halfway across the world to stake a claim, but for the natives of Palestine they have turned the olive groves into desert, they have burned down the fields, demolished the houses, seized the water, the precious water for their own selfish use. They have indeed been very generous to themselves but to the Arabs they have been misers, taking all and leaving nothing, not even shadows.
    Now we have the Peace Process, a special process engineered by America and overruled by Israel, or more precisely the Israeli settlers. The Peace Process with its false promises and empty rhetoric. N

  8. Roger Lafontaine says:

    They were not corrupt enough to be the administrators of ‘false promises’ to their own people. They demanded more than rhetoric and promises. They demanded their rights, their land and an end to destruction. That is not on the American-Israeli agenda and never will be. The Peace Process is used to justify oppression, to buy time to establish more settlements and create more barriers, and little by little to destroy the lives of Palestinians. The Peace Process is the withholding of food to the starving. Rice called it the ‘birthpangs of the new Middle East’ knowing full well that birth pangs if prolonged long enough can actually kill the mother and its baby. That is what America is doing and has been doing for decades now. Protecting ‘useful’ tyrants and warlords over the will of the people, destroying the cries of the child within. But to destroy the child within you have to destroy the future, you have to destroy the people themselves. Israel has made itself the instrument of this suppression. If there is a birth it will have to be violent for it will have to fight to emerge from under the shadow of America-Israel. How can there be freedom when elections are nullified by violence and sanctions, plotting and secret arms transfers, by deception and torture? Show me the ‘birth of the new Middle East’ and I will show you the overthrow of American and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Until that happens no peace is possible.

  9. Leigh Benning says:

    The only reason the Israelis left gaza was that it’s aquifer was polluted (one hates to imagine what that is going to do to those left behind).

    At this point, Abbas is a dead man walking especially with the Palestinian Chalabi walking beside him (Dahlan).

    One can only hope that Hezbollah will share its secrets with Hamas which will lead to another Israeli defeat and then the insertion of UN troops which will stop the settlements.

    What a great way we Americans have of running foreign policy: with dual nationals in charge.

  10. Abe D says:

    I Would Rather Deal with an Ideological Enemy That Has Well-Defined Limits and Principles He Respects Than Dealing with a Revolving Self-Servant Opportunist Who is Willing to Shake Hand with The Devil to Achieve His Own Selfish Goals. After All, The Opportunist Has No True Friend and Worthless To Befriend.

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  13. Kev. says:

    There is a glaring spotlight shining on the worldwide mechanics of a concerted Zionist effort to turn to turn those who do not adhere to the Zionist ideal against each other.
    In Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Venezuala, China and various African states, the sword of division has been thrust into the heart of any unification efforts.
    The old addage of divide and rule is being used to turn people against each other. They have been fed lies and poison against each other and armed to the teeth by Zion, then driven to the point of open warfare against each other while Zion sits back and mops up the remnants.
    A good strategy by Zion, let your enemies kill each other. Provoke them by “false flag” acts of destruction and murder, destroy all and any trust that might arise and bring your enemies together as a single and more powerful enemy.
    And the pity of it is that the people of Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other places cannot see beyond the end of there noses, perhaps they deserve the fate that Zion has planned for them. After all they are the last bastion of non Zionist led nations on the planet and Zion has worked long and hard to acheive its goal of world domination.

  14. Harry Garza says:

    One day Israel will be stripped of the American protection and have to rely on the mercy of the people that it has mistreated for so long. Perhaps another genocide will take place. This time, it will have only itself to blame. Perhaps this is what really occurred 2500 years ago- the arrogance of power leading to downfall?

  15. Justin says:

    The article was well-written in detailing the problems that Israel and U.S. face in attempting to reach an agreement with Abbas’ palestinian movement along with Egypt and Jordan. Hamas does have strong support as demonstrated from their support from Iran and Al-Qa’eda’s endorsement which was not mentioned in the article. However, It was only a few months ago (March 07) when Al-Qa’eda accused Hamas of surrendering Palestinian rights after it signed a power-sharing deal with the Fatah party. This puts Hamas in a difficult situation if it intends to keep support from Iran, whose Shia allies in Iraq are embroiled in a sectarian war with Sunni al-Qa’eda there.
    Likewise, Israel and the U.S. will have to offer more than a gesture of goodwill if they expect to win support for Abbas’ Fatah movement.

  16. Shlomo says:

    Tony, great column. Very insightful, very sad, very true.

    Roger, I agree with virtually everything you’ve written so far…but when Israel pulled out of Gaza, they left fully operational greenhouses and irrigation systems. The Palestinians decided to destroy everything. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on that.

    Leigh, what you said about the polluted aquifer is very interesting. Sources?

    Harry: HUH?!? 2500 years ago, Biblical Israel was hardly in the throes of the “arrogance of power”. Actually, it was under military occupation, just as Palestinians are today! A rebel movement centered in the Galilee tried to overthrow Roman occupation, and Rome responded by kicking the Jews out of Israel. It would be the equivalent of IDF forcing all Gazans to go to Egypt.

  17. Donald says:

    Harry, gloating about a future genocide is pretty ugly in my book. I’m in agreement with Tony Karon, but I’ve noticed that when I go back and forth between the pro and anti-Zionist websites, there’s a usually a few people in the comments sections who are prone to say very nasty things. All you have to do is interchange the words “Jew” and “Arab” and otherwise they’re in agreement.

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  19. martin cadwell says:

    To steadfast and others. US politics are not “captive to Israel.” US (or “American”) politics are “captive” (that is, determined by) the US imperialist ruling class. The goal of that class is world domination or world hegemony. Both parties representing that class, the Republicans and Democrats, agree on that goal and both agree on the general strategy towards achieving that goal. Namely, achieving hegemony over the Middle East and its vast oil reserves (about two-thirds of the entire world’s known) as the key towards achieving global economic, military, and political hegemony. Educate yourself. Learn about the “Iraq” Oil Law (actually the US and transnational corporate oil robbery law). Read about the Project for a New American Century. Stop buying the bankrupt US line (echoed by Fatah since before Oslo) that the US is a neutral or honest “broker.” The US is the most powerful, aggressive, voracious imperialist state in the world and seeks global hegemony. It is towards that aim that it labels every independent nationalist state (such as Saddam’s Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela) undemocratic and terrorist. It is towards that end that it invaded and occupies Iraq and Afghanistan. And threatens to attack and invade Iran. And commits subversion and attempts assassination from Iran to Venezuela. The two wings of the US Global Domination and War Party (Rs and Ds) both agree that Israel is the United State’s main and most reliable ally towards achieving that end. Israel has one of the most powerful conventional and nuclear armed militaries in the entire world. (anywhere from the second or third most powerful (Israeli expert Martin Van Crewald) to fourth, fifth, or sixth according to other experts). In any event, its conventional forces are vastly superior to any other Middle East country’s and it is the only nuclear power in the region. (unless we consider the US, with its host of bases and aircraft carriers and nuclear armed submarines in the region the other). Israel is the only remaining white racist European colonial power in the Middle East. Unlike the other key US allies in the region— the military dictatorship of Egypt, the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and the Gulf states—which rest on very narrow bases and whose leaders are despised by vast sections of their own populations, the Israeli imperialists and colonialists rest on a relatively firm base among Jewish Israelis who are about 80% of Israel’s population. Any one of the US’s other Middle East allies could go the way of the Shah of Iran in the near future and the US knows it. The open alliance of the collaborators such as Mubarek, Abdullah of Jordan, and Abbas of Palestine with US and Israeli power makes the use of the full weight of Israeli military power against the Palestinians more likely. It will be done under the guise of “fighting Hamas terror.” However, this is not the end of the struggle against Israeli colonialism and American neo-colonialism. Rather, it is a ripening of the process. Abu Matza’s (yes, Abu MATZA), alliance with the Zionists and US imperialists will no more save him and his cronies and doom the Palestinian resistance than the South Vietnamese bureaucrat capitalist lackeys and collaborator’s open alliance with US imperialism saved them and doomed the Vietnamese resistance. Abu Matza and his like will be isolated from the Palestinian people just as the American’s South Vietnamese lackeys were. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men (the USAF, US Army and Marines) couldn’t put the South Vietnamese Humpty Dumpty together again. And Israeli and American military power won’t prevail politically in Palestine or Iraq either, though they will cause great devastation and death—the only thing they are really good at—as they have already in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. The US will not ultimately succeed in its quest for world domination. It is already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is relentlessly marching closer and closer to military action against Iran, an even bigger independent nationalist regime which it (and its chief ally Israel) believe must be defeated to achieve domination over the Middle East and its oil. But just as the US has failed to consolidate a stable client state in Iraq, and as Israel failed in Lebanon in the Summer War of 2006, the US will fail to do so in Iran, and will instead sow millions more dragon’s teeth which will further contribute to its eventual strategic defeat in the Middle East and the world.

  20. Bl4ckP0pe says:

    Bravo, Martin Cadwell !!

    100% agree with that succinct statement of geopolitical reality, but would like to add that ‘We the People’ need to wake up to our responsibility to our common humanity to make a decisive input to the equation these PNAC-psychopaths have set up, otherwise the end will be grim indeed.

    We all need to ask ourselves, “How can I contribute to the downfall of the Beast, in a way which minimizes harm to the innocent?”


    Ever Onwards – Unity and Victory to the Heroic Resistance !!

    Everyone has a part to play – Rome was not burnt in a Day !!

    Revolutionary Defeatism in US-Loser Homeland !! Smash the Empire !!

  21. Shlomo says:

    Oh, please, this is absurd! You socialists are having a field day just because the Bush neocon movement has been in power for a while. Just because after 9/11 Bush managed to ram the neocon agenda down the nation’s throat, you assert, incredibly, that everyone is a neocon.

    But Bush’s approval rating has not topped 40 for a while. The Project for a New American Century represents a neocon loony-bin that is fast losing ground. Once upon a time, during Oslo and Camp David, the U.S. actually WAS an honest broker. Finally, the oil law makes good economic sense. I honestly don’t see what’s so wonderful about OPEC. Since oil prices are high, being a member now provides short-term benefits, but in the long run there are negative consequences to oil production being held hostage to political considerations. Let’s look at what some of the OPEC countries are up to. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is cracking down on free press. In Iran, people are sucking jerry cans for wearing short sleeves. How enlightened.

    It is true that US (and by extension Israeli) foreign policy has grown drastically more imperialistic in the Bush era. It is also true that the current quest for world domination is a recipe for disaster and failure. But that’s why the quest is coming to an end.

    From the Obama campaign website:
    “Obama rejects the notion that the American moment has passed and believes that America must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. Obama believes that America must lead the world, by deed and example, and that America cannot meet the threats of the century alone and that the world cannot meet them without America.”

    Edwards’ rejection of Bush imperialism is even stronger. Hillary Clinton is a foreign policy doofus, so she still thinks we’re winning the War on Terror, but the quest for world domination is hardly a consensus.

  22. Abdul Gani says:

    “Once upon a time, during Oslo and Camp David, the U.S. actually WAS an honest broker”

    The US has NEVER been an honest broker. Start with the vote to create Israel in land belonging to someone else and through the list of UN resolutions that it vetoed to protect Israel to the funding and weapons support it provided.

    Hugo Chaves refused to re-license a station that supported a coup against the legitimately elected government and I don’t know what you are on about Iran, but am willing to bet that it’s based on more propaganda from the ‘free’ US press.

    Obama and Edwards will be no better than Bush. Bush’s failing is not that he has steered America wrong, it’s that he has been clumsy in carrying out the usual foreign policy. After all he was not responsible for Vietnam, Iraq sanctions, Israel, Grenada, Indonesia, East Timor, Nicaragua, Chile and many other US foreign policies that give the lie to the US being a beacon of freedom and hope on this planet.

  23. lolaone says:

    Tony, Once again, very well done. I love it when you trigger so much thoght in your readers. My education is limited, but I have tried to never stop learning from bright people around me. Roger Lafontaine and martin cadwell made me weep. When you are young, and trusting, you think that the wrongs will all be righted in your lifetime. Maybe it will stil happen, but I don’t really BELIEVE anymore. I think martin is on to the truth. Abdul Gani, you are also right. I don’t know what to think about Shlomo. lolaone

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