Friday, June 15, 2007

With chaos comes opportunity

Even in a Washington Post piece framed through the "failure" lens, you can't help but notice a glint of glee in the eyes of US officials, who, where most see setback, now see another opportunity to remove Hamas from the Palestinian political scene entirely.

Following Abbas' dissolution of the Palestinian government in the wake of Hamas' seizure of Gaza, the Post goes on to note:

U.S. officials signaled that they will move quickly to persuade an international peace monitoring group -- known as the Quartet -- to lift aid restrictions on the Palestinian government, allowing direct aid to flow to the West Bank-based emergency government that Abbas will lead.

"There is no more Hamas-led government. It is gone," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the administration must still consult with other members of the Quartet. He said that humanitarian aid will continue to Gaza, but that the dissolution of the Palestinian government is a singular moment that will allow the United States and its allies to create a "new model of engagement."

The evolving U.S. strategy would let the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fend for itself while attempting to bolster Abbas as a moderate leader who can actually govern and deliver peace with Israel. The senior administration official noted that Gaza has no territorial issues with Israel, since there are no Israelis in Gaza, so the Hamas entity there would have no stake in potential peace talks concerning the border on the West Bank.
Whether the further empowerment of Fatah has a chance of "succeeding" -- from the American point of view -- is to be determined, but it doesn't look likely. After all, it's pretty clear that Abbas has sacrificed whatever political credibility he might have had on the back of "American aid." His standing with Palestinians decreases with each day.

Press reporters might swallow the line offered earlier today by Tony Snow that Palestinians have to "sort out" their own situation, but the real story is quite different. As Tony Karon points out:
Everyone following the conflict in Gaza knows full well that the reason for the violence is not that Palestinians have not "sorted out their politics" — they’ve made their political preferences abundantly clear in democratic elections, and later in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the Saudis. The problem is that the U.S. and the corrupt and self-serving warlords of Fatah did not accept either the election result or the unity government, and have conspired actively ever since to reverse both by all available means, including starving the Palestinian economy of funds, refusing to hand over power over the Palestinian Authority to the elected government, and arming and training Fatah loyalists to militarily restore their party’s power. Unfortunately, after three days of some of the most savage fighting ever seen in Gaza, that strategy now lies in tatters. Fatah is, quite simply, no longer a credible fighting force in Gaza, where it has long been in decline as a credible political force.
Karon goes on to conclude that, "given their spectacular inability to comprehend the reasons for their defeats in the Palestinian territory, I don’t expect the U.S. to begin engaging pragmatically with the reality of Hamas as an indispensable component of the Palestinian leadership." So what's the logical endpoint? How about "a 'Bay of Pigs' type invasion of Gaza," using the more thuggish elements of Abbas' entourage flowing over the border from Egypt.