Monday, June 21, 2010

A Bit More on the Gaza Strip Diplomacy

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By Barry Rubin

Elsewhere, I have explained in great detail the changes in Israeli policy as well as the implications of Western policy in the Gaza Strip: economic normalization meaning also normalization of the existence of a Gaza Hamas-ruled statelet.

Israel, seeing that there is not going to be any "rollback" to remove Hamas from power has basically accepted a containment startegy of limited the military weaponry and capability of Hamas. Thus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained:

"The cabinet decision is the best one for Israel because it eliminates Hamas' main propaganda claim and allows us and our international allies to face our real concerns in the realm of security."

This is true as far as it goes except now Hamas merely switches to other supply matters--the quantity of goods, defining certain things as having no military value, demanding export rights--and even more important it forces Israel to drop its goal of bringing down the regime. As I noted earlier, this is not really a concession because, sadly, it was already clear that this was impossible given Western protection of the Hamas government.

But these countries are not finished yet in trying to improve the population's situation while actually helping Hamas.

The U.S. government and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Quartet negotiator have been critical of Israel's concessions as insufficient. While Israel is offering 130 truckloads a day of non-military goods and construction material only for demonstrably non-military projects, the U.S. and European governments want 400 trucks a day, which is what some aid agencies say is needed.

In addition, they want the Gaza Strip to be able to export goods, mainly agricultural, in order to make money.

On one level, the whole debate is absurd since they could just ask Egypt to open the border to this extent. But, of course, the intention is to pressure Israel. Ironically, if they demanded Egypt let more supplies be sent in, this would run up against Cairo's argument that it doesn't want to strengthen a revolutionary Islamist statelet on its own border.

It is amazing to see the extent to which the Western politicians are simply 100 percent deaf to the strategic implications of these issues. They don't want a Hamas regime attacking Israel or one that's militarily strengthened, but they just don't understand that any Hamas regime is going to attack Israel eventually--and not that far in the future.

The concept that a Hamas regime is going to spread revolutionary Islamism, subvert Israel, make any peace agreement impossible, strengthen Iranian influence in the Arab world, or do a half-dozen other things damaging to regional stability and Western influence does not seem to be crossing their minds.

It is easy to call Western leaders and diplomats names (fools, idiots, etc.) or to make fun of them. Yet on this specific failure such a response seems especially appropriate.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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