Left: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; photo courtesy of BBC.
(London) In a move that will likely increase tensions in the region, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced today that the US will not provide financial assistance to a Hamas-led government in Palestine.
Meeting members of the "Quartet" - the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations - Rice said that the US "is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses" to honor the previously negotiated peace framework.
The statement seems to indicate a shift in administration policy; the President's spokespersons previously asserted that the electoral results demonstrated a Palestinian desire for change and not necessarily an endorsement of Hamas per se.
The situation in Palestine is grim, as high unemployment, a sinking economy, and increasing violence portend an imminent political crisis. The question is whether a Hamas-led government can quell the unrest and stablize the country before the Israelis begin loading the tanks and armored personnel carriers.
The worst case scenario is a Palestinian civil war that brings more parties into a wider regional conflict.
It would seem more prudent to delay a cessation of aid for at least a few months to see if Hamas can bring a return of order to the nation. The administration's decision seems reckless and poorly-timed, unless this is merely a rhetorical negotiating ploy to send a wakeup call to the leaders of Hamas. To cut off aid at this juncture would likely strengthen, not weaken, Hamas, as it would be "evidence" that Palestinian leaders could show to demonstrate the supposed ill will of the West toward Muslims.
Not unlike the 1990s claims of a certain deposed dictator in the region, who was able to parlay economic hardship into sympathy as a means of retaining power for another decade.