Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clinton Stays On Course

In the same congressional testimony where she discussed U.S. Iran policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that the United States would only work with a Palestinian regime that met the conditions of the Quartet (Europe, UN, Russia, United States). That is: recognize Israel, abandon violence, accept all previous agreements. President Barack Obama included a similar point in his statement after meeting King Abdallah of Jordan.

This reinforces the U.S. boycott of Hamas, which seems to have weakened somewhat in British policy. In theory, it leaves the door open for dealing with a Palestinian Authority (PA) coalition regime of Fatah and Hamas. In practice, though, this isn't going to happen.

Fatah and Hamas each want to dominate the other. Hamas believes it is winning. It is allied with Iran which will be a nuclear power in the not-distant future, it probably expects (more likely, but not necessarily, wrongly) to take over the West Bank in a few years, and it believes (with more good reasons) that the Western opposition to it is crumbling.

Meanwhile, the PA continues to be corrupt and provides no alternative world view of how beneficial peace with Israel would be, including allowing creation of a Palestinian state. Its strategy seems to consist of: blaming Israel for all problems and hoping the world will pressure Israel into unilateral concessions so it can get a state without doing anything to earn one in a peace based on mutual compromise and conciliation.

[A digression on PA corruption. It has just been revealed that two sons of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas received $2 million in U.S. aid money for various projects including improving America's image among Palestinians. Memo to Tarek and Yasser Abbas: Easy way to earn the money! Tell your father to stop running anti-American materials in the PA's radio, television and newspaper outlets.]

In addition, the Hamas leaders really believe what they are saying and are not closet pragmatists. On a practical level, however, they understand that their advantage over Fatah and the PA is their open extremism and their more energetic practice of terrorist violence.

For four reasons then--desire for power, ideology, strategy, and confidence--Hamas is not going to submit itself to the PA. It certainly isn't going to meet the Quartet's conditions.

There are those in Fatah eager for a deal with Hamas. Indeed, they are far more eager for peace with Hamas than for peace with Israel. They are ready to sacrifice the latter for the former. Yet Hamas's terms are likely to be too steep for them.

Thus, Clinton's statement and U.S. policy are that the United States puts its faith in Fatah and the PA as the vehicle for making rapid progress in the "peace process." They will funnel money to the PA and train its military forces.

They are wrong to expect the PA to move toward peace but right to back it (though this should not be done so idealistically and uncritically). Hamas must be kept from taking over Palestinian leadership.

And remember, this like every issue is in the context of the great battle now going on in the region: the struggle between nationalists (including Israeli and Turkish) against Islamists, and between an Iran-led coalition (the HISH--Hamas, Iran, Hizballah, and Syria) and most Arab regimes plus Israel.

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