Cutting through the bullshit.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Welcome to Hamastan

Lest I be accused of laying into an easy mark, I just wanted to make it clear that even though Dennis Ross may appear to be a gibbering idiot with about as firm a grasp on current events as the Leader of the Free World, he is in fact a respected author and intellectual think tank nabob.

The writer was director for policy planning in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush and special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton. He is counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His new book is "Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World."

So says the blurb at the end of his article in yesterday’s Washington Post.

…Both Israelis and Palestinians were wondering about the consequences of Gaza's becoming, in their word, "Hamastan."

…Some said Israel should let weapons and ammunition get to Fatah forces in Gaza to battle Hamas. I also heard from Palestinians and Israelis alike that Egypt could do much more to prevent Hamas from receiving smuggled arms and money through the Sinai tunnels running into Gaza.

As if we didn’t know that Israel was doing precisely that – sending Fatah militants off for arming and training by the US and sending them back into Gaza effectively to launch an insurgency against the elected ‘government’ of the Palestinian Authority. Note that when Ross writes, ‘Israel should let weapons and ammunition get to Fatah forces’, he acknowledges that it is Israel that has full control of what goes into Gaza.

All those I spoke with were worried about the consequences of Gaza's becoming an Islamist enclave. They saw it offering inspiration to other Islamists throughout the Middle East and providing a new haven for Islamists of all stripes.

But since Israel fully controls ingress to Gaza, how will they get in?

They feared it would spell the end of even the possibility of a two-state solution. Most were convinced Hamas would never accept peace with Israel.

There has never been a possibility of a two state ‘solution’ that provides justice for the Palestinians, especially the 1948 refugees and the ‘Israeli Arabs’, or a really politically and economically viable Palestinian state. Dennis Ross preferred not to ask whether Israel would ever accept peace with Hamas, or anyone. Or if he did, not to report the answer,

Interestingly, there was consensus among Israelis and Palestinians on the dangers of Gaza's becoming a failed state. No one thought it would be easy to isolate and contain -- or had any clear ideas on how to respond to such a development.

That danger would only arise, of course, if Gaza were any kind of state, with a government and an economy and control of its borders and the like. Gaza was fully isolated and contained before the ‘withdrawal’ one of whose principal aims was to demonstrate how Palestinians couldn’t ‘govern themselves’ without the beneficent guiding hand of the occupation authorities.

Among some I heard an interesting proposal: Let's make the West Bank work -- socially, economically and institutionally -- then hold up our model of success in contrast to the failure of Gaza, where functional unemployment is close to 70 percent. Let Hamas preside over a dysfunctional, lawless state. We will build our own. Let's create understandings with Jordan and Israel for at least economic confederation and security. And if Hamas still hangs on in Gaza, perhaps there can be a "three-state solution."

Sounds good in theory, but I doubt it would work.

That would be some theory. As Israel commemorates forty years since it reclaimed jurisdiction over the ‘united Jerusalem’ and Judea and Samaria, how is Fatah, who, Ross acknowledges, ‘lost the elections because of their divisions, the corruption of the old guard and their inability to respond to the needs of the Palestinian public’, or any group of Palestinians, going to ‘make the West Bank work -- socially, economically and institutionally’. They are not in control. They can’t even walk to school or buy bread without interference. And Ross thinks they’re going to create a model state!

No matter how sensible confederation between the Palestinian state and Jordan might be, at least economically…

It might make sense to someone who, like Dennis Ross, hasn’t consulted a map and doesn’t realise that Israel controls the Jordan Valley and all access between the West Bank and Jordan. He goes on to admit

Moreover, while West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have much that divides them, they still have a common identity as Palestinians; the creation of a Palestinian state without Gaza would be an endless source of grievance and irredentism.

But after this brief return to Planet Earth, off he goes again to explain how it’s up to Egypt to prevent the ‘state’ of Gaza from arming itself against its sworn enemy and it’s up to ‘us’ to help ‘rebrand’ Fatah ‘to compete socially, economically and politically’ with Hamas.

Nothing embarrasses these guys.

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