Friday, October 29, 2010

How Has U.S. Policy Toward Hamas and the Gaza Strip Turned Around 180 Degrees?

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By Barry Rubin

A reader asks what I meant when I wrote:

"Should I mention the total reversal of U.S. policy on Hamas from trying to undermine that radical Islamist group's rule in the Gaza Strip to believing Hamas will fall if Gaza becomes prosperous?"

Here's my answer:

From the time Hamas seized the Gaza Strip until last summer, the U.S. government supported a strategy of trying to bring down the Hamas government. It did this by both political isolation and supporting embargos to minimize Gaza's imports and exports. The idea was that weakening Gaza's economy would weaken Hamas's rule.

At the same time, by lavishing aid on the PA-ruled West Bank, the United States and its allies would show that West Bankers were much better off because they were ruled by peace-oriented moderates. In other words, West Bankers would support the PA rather than Hamas because they were materially better off; Gazans would yearn for (and support a return of) PA rule because they were much worse off.

After the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010, however, President Barack Obama declared a new policy--though he never identified it explicitly as a new policy. Now, the US would provide a lot of aid to Gaza in the belief that it became more prosperous the citizens--apparently a strengthened middle class and businessmen--would bring down the regime in Gaza. Although they never said this explicitly, the implication seemed to be that they expected something like what happened in Eastern Europe in opposition to Soviet control and Communist rule.

The aid is to go to carefully designated and monitored projects. Whether or not that goal is achieved, however, the infusion of $400 million in U.S. aid directly (plus many millions more of U.S. aid filtered through the PA for supporting civil servants in Gaza (intended to bolster their support for Fatah) will have the effect of strengthening the Hamas regime.

Aid will reduce popular discontent against Hamas while letting Hamas divert some of this aid and a lot of funds that would otherwise have been needed to do some of these projects (and buy popular support) for terrorist/military purposes.

Thus, however well-intentioned or apparently clever the new policy may seem to Washington decisionmakers, its practical effect is to strengthen Hamas; undermine any hope for Israel-Palestinian peace; and to help establish a stable, long-term radical, terrorist, Islamist, anti-Western, and genocidally minded Iranian client state on the Mediterranean coast.

And to see how upset the Egyptian government is about this institutionalization of Hamas' rule in Gaza, read this.

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 (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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