Sunday, February 26, 2006

Coalition of the Unwilling?

Looks like Hamas has outflanked both Israel and the USA. The governments of the last two attempted to twist Hamas arms not only into accepting the existence of Israel but Israel’s land grab beyond the 1967 borders. They wanted Hamas to accept what they reckon is an Israeli fait accompli, brought about by force.

The Israeli is of course the prime mover of the politico-economic blackmail against Hamas. Israel kick-started the extortion for recognition by Hamas by withholding the Palestinian own tax revenue, which Israel collects at the borders for the Palestinian Authority. It also instructed the Americans to demand back a $50 million aid for Palestinian infrastructure project. Shamefully President Bush toed the Israeli line.

Israel has instituted other vindictive measures, such as restricting Palestinian movements between the West Bank and Gaza. Elected Palestinian members of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza were prevented from travelling to Ramullah to attend their first parliamentary meeting. It has also planned to stop Palestinian labourers from earning a living on its side of the military enforced line.

The Israeli-American couple have been doing the international rounds to marshal a new coalition against Hamas, with the aim of cutting off funds to the new Hamas-led government but they seemed 'shocked & awed' that no one in the Arab world as well as the principal players of Europe wanted to have anything to do with their anti-democratic mischief.

Russia and Turkey have invited Hamas for talks, recognising it as the democratically elected majority party that now forms the Palestinian Authority. France has supported Russia’s policy of engagement with Hamas.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has just made a disastrous tour of Arab countries to storm up support for the US intention to financially and politically blackout a Hamas-led Palestinian government. The Egyptians and Saudis snubbed her appeal with varying degrees of polite rejection.

I suppose we could say the USA did get its coalition, but a Coalition of the Unwilling.

Why did the Americans idiotically imagine for one instant that Hamas who has just won a landslide election victory on the basis of its credentials as incorruptible freedom fighters would immediately genuflect to Israeli. Accepting the latter's set of demands wholesale without any concession from a belligerent Israel would be seen as a surrender of its own principles.

If the US, on behalf of Israel, wants to see a responsible Hamas-led government, there are better ways of achieving that without threatening, intimidating and sabotaging Hamas. The US administration should by now recognise that its aggressive foreign engagement hasn't achieved much, especially with an organization like Hamas. As for the Israelis, ultimately, they have to come to terms that for lasting peace, they must pull back to the 1967 borders.

Notwithstanding the Israel-US attempts to undermine its status as the government of Palestine, Hamas isn't about to abandon its ceasefire with Israel. In fact the Israel-US effort to isolate a Hamas-led Palestinian government will succeed, if the world sees Hamas launching attacks against Israel. The Europeans would undoubtedly have second thoughts about continuing the funding of the Palestinian Authority.

Once the European stop its funding, which constitute 60% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget, the Palestinian sufferings will increase, for a start with hospitals, schools, infrastructure support, etc closing down. That’s what the Israeli-US wants, so that the Palestinian people will reject Hamas and re-vote Fatah in.

But political observers who have been admiring the political astuteness of Hamas reckoned it will extend the ceasefire with Israel indefinitely, even unilaterally. That way Hamas can avoid acknowledging Israel’s existence while receiving financial aid from Europe and Arab nations. It knows it can forget about US aid, unless of course Israel allows the Americans to do so, which everyone knows is unlikely at this stage.

Hamas is also not above a little manoeuvring of its own, showing a level of political sophistication that’s quite alarming to the USA. Hamas has receive pledges of financial support from Iran to cover the loss of American aid. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal made a big show of announcing the Iranian pledge in Tehran when he was there to solicit support from the Iranians. The Iranian aid per se is not as important as the fact that Hamas is virtually saying to the USA and the Arab world that the Persian influence will reach even further west in the region if the Americans [or Arab nations] want to exclude itself from engaging Hamas.

The only thing Hamas need to watch out for is the inevitable Israeli provocations to deliberately elicit violence from Hamas hotheads. With the USA already in its back pocket, Israel wants Europe to view Hamas as a violent terrorist organization rather than the democratically elected Palestinian government it is.

Hamas needs also to bear in mind how the provocative caricatures had been published in Denmark by the Jylland-Posten cultural editor, Flemming Rose, who [by strange coincidence?] has very close connections with Daniel Pipes, a leading neo-con Zionist who is said to be viruently anti-Arab.

Just consider, how do the previously pro-Palestinian Europeans feel towards any Arabs today after the series of violence over the caricatures in Muslim countries?

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