Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hamas and Fatah, Gaza and the West Bank

It would seem the best way to understand what's going on among the Palestinians right now is to combine Amir Taheri's piece for the Times and Con Coughlin's for the Telegraph.

First, the problem isn't that the Israeli, European and US cut in aid to Palestine has prevented Hamas properly governing the terroritories. As Coughlin notes there hasn't been a decline in donations to the Palestinians but there has been a redistribution of that income under Hamas:

"Hamas, on the other hand, sees economic deprivation as a form of political oppression. The World Bank reported that donors contributed about £375 million to the Palestinian territories in 2006, twice the amount they received in 2005. But since taking power, Hamas ensures any funds are spent on Islamic causes and its 6,000-strong militia, leaving the majority to fend for themselves."

Of course, the reason why Hamas have no interest in running the territories well is that they see them as a military base, as a staging post in the fight to destroy Israel. Few military bases are a pleasant place for a civilian to live. Taheri describes the problem:

"The constitution of Hamas, however, commits it to the creation of a single state. Gaza and the West Bank are regarded as bases from which the struggle for the liberation of the entire mandate of Palestine, that is to say the elimination of Israel, is pursued for as long as necessary."

Civilian suffering can even be an advantage if it provides helpful propaganda to assist the Hamas war machine, Coughlin:

"The bonus for Hamas is that, by forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, it succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place."

Hamas is attempting to impose a Taliban-like state on areas under its control. From Taheri's article:

"Having won the general election 18 months ago, Hamas launched a drive to “Islamicise” Gaza, forcing women to wear the hijab and men to grow beards. It burnt down the last beer factory in Gaza and banned the sale of alcoholic drinks. Bands of youths calling themselves “Brigades of Enforcing the Good and Combating Evil” raid homes in search of alcohol, Western music and videos, unIslamic T-shirts and other “sinful items”. Young men and women found together in public, or even in private cars, are stopped and interrogated to make sure unmarried couples do not violate Sharia rules."

Hamas are far less interested in a struggle for a Palestinian state than they are in a general struggle for Islamist victory. This makes a stable two-state solution implausible as Hamas are unlikely to be satisfied with a Palestinian state. In fact, even if they were to achieve the destruction of Israel they are unlikely to be satisfied. Their interest is in the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation of which they are a member, dream of worldwide domination.

What the West is going to have to realise, those that haven't already, is that the suffering of the Palestinians is emphatically not a result of Israeli policy. There have been numerous opportunities, most recently at Camp David, for the Palestinians to have a state within which they could work at building a better life for themselves. These were rejected. Now the Palestinian political leadership, elected freely and fairly by ordinary Palestinians, are setting out to ruin their people's chance at a better life preferring a struggle for the destruction of Israel. The suffering of the Palestinians, cause of so much self-righteous indignation in the corridors of the United Nations and the offices of the Guardian, is a consequence of choices they have made.

Israel's policy in the face of this has to be to look to its own defences. The logic behind the wall is looking stronger and stronger. The targetted application of military force can keep its enemies on the back foot. Western policy should be to do what we can to assist Israel in this task. In the longer term some kind of unilateral settlement with the Palestinians living in the non-state they've created for themselves and the Israelis doing their best to keep its affairs and theirs' separate might be the best outcome possible.


Gracchi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gracchi said...

Personally I think Israel needs to look at ways to strengthen Fatah and the moderates against Hamas. Eventually Israel has to do a deal with teh Palestinians or end up like South Africa- a real apartheid state- so in my view the Israelis have to find a Palestinian partner and build them up. One way for instance might be to funnel economic aid through Abbas- that might help him in terms of power and politically present him as the guy who can get results.

I'm not so sure about the merits of the Barak offer in 2000, the problem is that it offered the Palestinians a proportiion of the land they could have from the 1967 borders with no compensation for land lost to settlements- Barak's offer should have been accepted by Arafat as the basis for negotiations- but you can understand why he didn't.

The issue on both sides is that both presume that the other doesn't really wish to negotiate. The real issue to me is breaking that cycle- Israel because its the more powerful and cohesive partner can do that easier which is why I think they should try it- otherwise I think you will have Hamas very powerful in Palestine and hardliners in Israel staring at each other for the next century. Not a situation that anyone should look forward to.

Quantum said...

I usually never comment on this blog since Mr. Sinclair is much too wet for me. Soggy, bloated, milquetoastey wet.

But I felt compelled to respond to Gracchi's comment, since it encapsulates what is so very wrong about so many "obvious" assumptions in the Mideast.

We hear over and over again that we must "find a Palestinian partner" and build them up. Yet, there is no evidence that there is a "Palestinian partner" -- indeed, the PLO was created in 1964, when the "occupation" was of the land of Israel proper, not the West Bank. Then the sorry decades of terrorism, doublespeak, Arafat's vile kleptocracy, the Hamas election victory, and now Hamasstan

There is also no evidence that the Palestinians want a "two-state solution" -- since they were offered a state of their own in 1936, 1948, and 2000, and each time turned it down.

Eventually, one must start to question basic assumptions when they break up against reality -- such as, what if the Palestinians don't really want a two-state solution? Does Israel, as Gracchi says, really need to "do a deal" and "bolster moderates" when there is no evidence, currently, that these things are either real or possible?

The 2000 Camp David accords -- in which Arafat never made an offer and then rejected the state while starting a suicide-bomb terror campaign has been described by Dennis Ross, who was there. He demolishes much of Gracchi's arguments here


A summary by Dennis Ross of what was offered and what took place at the Camp David and Taba negotiations:

1. Yasser Arafat presented no ideas at Camp David.

3. All of Gaza and a net of 97% of the West Bank were offered at Taba.

4. The West Bank area offered was contiguous, not "cantons".

etc etc