Tag Archives: Hamas

The Eve of Destruction?


Last time around the U.S. encouraged this, what will Obama do?

Tuesday’s cross-border firefight between Israeli and Lebanese government forces might simply have been a misunderstanding. And the rockets fired from Gaza and the Israeli air strikes on the besieged territory over the past week could be viewed as periodic blip in business as usual on that front. By the same token, last Friday’s unprecedented joint visit to Beirut by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria could be viewed simply as a move to stop the conflict between their Lebanese proxies turning nasty. And British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pleas to Turkey to keep open its communication channels with Israel’s leaders are quotidian diplomatic common sense. Viewed in a wider context, however, each of those events could be taken as signs of why many in the Middle East believe that despite the outward calm, the region may be on the brink of another catastrophic war. Continue reading

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Another Remarkably Stupid NYT Op Ed on the Mideast

Okay, I don’t have much time here, it’s recycling night — and the New York Times seems to revel in recycling really tired Israeli PR lines. Today, it’s Ephraim Karsh trotting out a mish-mash of misrepresentations and tar-balls of wishful thinking to make the case that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians, and now that they’re on their own, they’re more likely to surrender to Israel’s terms at the peace table.

The evidence for this claim, first and foremost, is an unscientific survey by an Arab news organization that found that ” a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. Uh, Ephraim, buddy — you may not know this, but the percentage of Palestinians that have no interest in those peace talks is probably higher. Nobody outside the Netanyahu-AIPAC echo chamber believes anything will come of such talks as long as the U.S. declines to force the issue with Israel. That’s hardly the same thing as saying the Arabs have tired of the Palestinians; on the contrary, most surveys of Arab opinion find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains their primary foreign policy concern. Arabs tiring of the Palestinians is wishful thinking. Continue reading

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Mideast Failure Looms for Obama


Published on TIME.com
The Obama Administration’s bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Obama began his effort by saying “settlement freeze.” On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself struggling to persuade skeptical Arab foreign ministers to see the silver lining in Israel’s “no, but” answer to the U.S. demand that Israel halt all construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. At least Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was offering to restrain settlement activity, Clinton argued, but Arab leaders, whom Obama had hoped would make reciprocal gestures towards normalization of ties with Israel, were not buying. For Arab League secretary Amr Moussa, Clinton’s message offered a grim outlook for the Administration’s peace efforts: “I still wait until we have our meetings and decide what we are going to do,” Moussa reportedly said Monday in Morocco, where Clinton was meeting with Arab leaders. “But failure is in the atmosphere all over.”

Asking the Arab states to accept Israel’s offer to simply slow down construction in the West Bank and its refusal to stop building and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — after President Obama publicly and repeatedly demanded it — has battered the Administration’s credibility in Arab capitals. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Monday his refusal to heed Washington’s call to begin negotiating with Netanyahu in the absence of a settlement freeze. Abbas has promised his public and his own Fatah movement, which is deeply skeptical of the prospects for dealing with Israel’s current hawkish government, that he won’t return to the table until Netanyahu has signaled his bona fides by halting all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has used the Palestinian refusal to engage in unconditional talks as an opportunity to blame them for the impasse in solving the conflict, noting that Abbas spent last year in talks over a two-state deal with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert without ever mentioning a settlement freeze. Why are the Palestinians suddenly making such a fuss about a settlement freeze now, the Israelis ask, as if this signifies a hidden agenda. The Obama Administration appeared to take Netanyahu’s side last weekend, pressing the Palestinians to drop the precondition for talking. But the Palestinians point out that they weren’t the only ones raising the issue: the Obama Administration, too, had issued an unambiguous demand that Israel halt all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in line with the 2002 road map. Continue reading

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Israel & the Man Next Door…

Talking to Hamas is okay, as long as the negotiators are in separate rooms… Continue reading

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Fatah’s Long March


The rank-and-file of Fatah has long known that Mahmoud Abbas’ habit of jumping through hoops for Condi Rice was political suicide, and that much has been confirmed in recent weeks: Hamas has emerged from the Gaza war stronger than ever politically, and Abbas’ blaming of Hamas for the carnage at the beginning of Israel’s operation cast him as a collaborator in the eyes of many of his own people. Abbas has spent eight years sitting politely in the back seat of the Bush/Condi limo, pretending that endless photo ops with Olmert and Livni were actually part of a process towards ending the occupation. But they couldn’t even give him a “shelf” agreement for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and sharing Jerusalem. If Olmert couldn’t do even the fetish deal envisaged by Bush, then what could Abbas expect from an Israeli government that will be ten steps to the right? Now, Fatah will seek to redeem itself by reverting to a path of struggle, with its Mahmoud Abbas Old Guard soon to be eclipsed by the Barghouti generation Continue reading

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How to Break the U.S.-Hamas Impasse

Israel and even some Arab leaders still speak fancifully about putting Fatah in charge of rebuilding Gaza, but that’s a dangerous fallacy. The reality on the ground is that no progress is possible in Palestinian political life – from Gaza’s ceasefire and reconstruction to meaningful peace negotiations with Israel – without the consent and support of Hamas. Tying progress on those fronts to efforts to marginalise Hamas gives Hamas an incentive to play the spoiler, and with the credibility of Abbas and Fatah in Palestinian eyes now at an all-time low, it simply isn’t smart politics.

Hamas has to be involved, but that requires finding a formula to deal with the prohibitions imposed by the US and its allies on engaging Hamas until the movement symbolically renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces past peace agreements. Hamas is unlikely to make declarations that it would deem a symbolic surrender, and nor is the US likely to reverse itself on those preconditions, as President Barack Obama has now twice made clear.

The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap. Israel and even some Arab leaders still speak fancifully about putting Fatah in charge of rebuilding Gaza, but that’s a dangerous fallacy. The reality on the ground is that no progress is possible in Palestinian political life – from Gaza’s ceasefire and reconstruction to meaningful peace negotiations with Israel – without the consent and support of Hamas. Tying progress on those fronts to efforts to marginalise Hamas gives Hamas an incentive to play the spoiler, and with the credibility of Abbas and Fatah in Palestinian eyes now at an all-time low, it simply isn’t smart politics.

Hamas has to be involved, but that requires finding a formula to deal with the prohibitions imposed by the US and its allies on engaging Hamas until the movement symbolically renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces past peace agreements. Hamas is unlikely to make declarations that it would deem a symbolic surrender, and nor is the US likely to reverse itself on those preconditions, as President Barack Obama has now twice made clear.

The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap. Continue reading

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Waltzing With Ariel: Will Obama, Too, Indulge Israeli Rejectionism?


Ariel Sharon still sleeps peacefully on life-support three years after suffering a massive stroke, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was still at the helm in Israel — because today, the Israeli government appears to have only tactics to fight the next battle, but no strategy beyond an improvisational combination of expanding the occupation of the West Bank, cynically chanting the benedictions of a two-state divorce that will come, one day (like the moshiach) while getting on with the “iron wall” business of creating expansive “facts on the ground” and trying to crush Palestinian resistance. There’s no “peace process” at work in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor as there been for the past eight years.

Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in next weekend’s Israeli election will provide what George W. Bush liked to call a “moment of clarity”, by making it unmistakably clear that Israel’s leaders are not, in any meaningful sense, a “partner” for a credible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Then again, you’re more likely to hear more wishful spin about how Bibi, precisely because he’s so hawkish, is a better bet for making peace — which sort of dodges the inconvenient truth that Bibi has no intention of doing so.)

So, what’s Obama to do?

Obama’s Administration could argue that the U.S. may have its preferences, but it can’t choose Israel’s leaders; it has to work with whomever Israel elects. Indeed. But the same is true for the Palestinians. And a major reason for the steady deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian situation over the past eight years has been Washington’s efforts to choose the Palestinians’ leaders for them, with increasingly disastrous effects.
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Change Gaza Can Believe In


The catastrophe in Gaza has, counterintuitively enough, presented President Barack Obama with an opportunity to restart the peace process — precisely because it has demonstrated the catastrophic failure of the approach adopted by the Bush Administration…. …The Gaza debacle has made one thing perfectly clear: any peace process that seeks to marginalize, not integrate, Hamas is doomed to fail — and with catastrophic consequences.
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The War Isn’t Over, But Israel Has Lost


Haven’t we been here before?

I. The Last Waltz?

Repeating behaviors that have produced catastrophic failures and expecting a different result is insane; and when a person’s psychotic behavior puts himself those around him in immediate physical danger, the responsibility of those who claim to be his friends is to restrain him. But even as Waltz With Bashir shows in multiplexes across the world as a grim reminder of the precedent for Israel’s brutal march of folly in Gaza, the U.S. (and the editors of the New York Times and Washington Post) insist that there is a sanity and rationality to sending one of the world’s most powerful armies into a giant refugee camp to rend the flesh and crush the bones of those who stand in its way — whether in defiance or by being unlucky enough to have been born of the wrong tribe and be huddling in the wrong place. By fighting its way to their citadel, they would have us believe, Israel can destroy Hamas and usher in a golden age of peace. Or, to borrow from the casual callousness of Condi Rice during the last such display of futile brutality, we are witnessing, again, the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Israel failed in 2006, just as in 2002 and 1982. This time, they tell us, will be different.

And then the horror unfolds, as it always does — the hundreds of civilians accidentally massacred as they cowered in what they were told were places of safety, mocking the Israel’s torrent of self congratulation over its restraint and its brilliant intelligence — and the hopelessly out-gunned enemy manages to survive, as he does every time. And by surviving, grows stronger politically. No matter how many are killed, the leaders targeted by Israel’s military are endlessly regenerated in the fertile soil of grievance and resentment born of the circumstances Israel has created. Circumstances it has created, but which it, and its most fervent backers refuse to acknowledge, much less redress.
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Understanding Gaza


Soon enough, the bloody mess in Gaza will end in another cease-fire, having hardly changed the political equation in Gaza — much as the opposite might have been hoped for by the Bush Administration, the Israeli government and the regimes in Cairo and Ramallah who are quietly cheering Israel’s assault in the hope that it fatally weakens Hamas. The cease-fire, when it comes, will end rocket fire on Israel, but will also likely require the opening of the border crossings into Gaza (Hamas’ basic demand for a renewed truce). If so, that’s an outcome that could have been achieved without the killing of close to 400 people. And my money says that this cynical show of force by Barak and Tzipi Livni won’t even stop Bibi Netanyahu from winning Israel’s February election. The killing in Gaza, in other words, has been utterly senseless by even the most cynical measure. Continue reading

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