Monday, January 30, 2006
(Disclaimer: As much as I try to pretend it is, Middle Eastern politics isn’t funny and neither is this piece, so if you’re looking for a good laugh, go watch George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech tonight.)
Democracy comes at a price. This is the first lesson that Palestinians are learning in the wake of the recent surprise Hamas Parliamentary election victories. After giving United States President George W. Bush exactly what he asked for, if not exactly what he wanted, the State of Palestine is now paying the price. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling for governments around the globe to sever economic ties and freeze aid to the impoverished Authority unless it recognizes Israel’s right to exist. In other words, it will take away Palestine’s existence if it refuses to recognize Israel. And Israel, very probably rightly concerned that a government committed to it’s destruction is being formed in it’s very midst, has done so as well. But both governments, instead of just keeping their mouths shut for a few weeks to see how things shake out, or at least doing things quietly, have decided that the best course of action is to publicly threaten and attempt to isolate the new government before it even actually is formed. But then, George Bush has always been hasty.
The United States’ and Israel’s vision of diplomacy seems to be that the best way to deal with this new problem is to not try to nudge Hamas towards moderation now that they’ve become legitimately elected players on the Middle East stage, but to kick it farther into the embrace of nations like Syria and Iran. This in spite of the fact that George W. Bush, after initially showing a spectacular disinterest in Middle East politics, much to his chagrin, has repeatedly called for free and fair democratic elections in places exactly like Palestine. This also in spite of the fact that the surprise victory of Hamas may well have had more to do with Palestinians just being fed up the perceived corruption of the secular Fatah party than with a love of Islamic militancy. The question that the US and Israel should be asking is, “Is this vote about religion or garbage in the streets?” If, as it seems to be, the latter, then the next question inevitably is: Why? Why was Fatah unable to keep the streets safe and clean? And what role did the US and Israel have in Fatah losing the Parliamentary vote?
Since the Second Intifada began numerous Palestinian police stations have been leveled by Israeli operated American F15 fighters in retaliation for the killings of it’s citizens by Hamas suicide bombers, snipers and rocket attacks. Of course, Hamas probably destroyed as many more during fierce sectarian fighting with Yassir Arafat’s Fatah Party. Israel and the US blamed Fatah for failing to keep Hamas in line while at the same time destroying any ability Arafat had to actually do so, forever leaving whether or not he wanted to do so an open question.
Mahmoud Abbas, who took over the Presidency after the death of Mr. Arafat in the Fall of 2004, was left with nearly no resources to run vital governmental services, let alone forge a peaceful nation. Last year the United States sent an actual 50 million dollars in aid as well as a pledge to up that to 150 million this year, at least before Hamas won.
But the West Bank alone has an area of 2,262 sq. miles and population of nearly 2