Jan 30, 2006

Rice Announces: No US Aid To Hamas Government

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.


Anonymous said...

Rice just announced, with this statement, that the war got bigger. Way to go, Bush!

Lisa Renee said...

Expected, yet I was hoping for once someone in the whitehouse would have the foresight to realize that this is just going to increase the hostility and further diminish any real chance at peace.

Amazing we can spend 2 million dollars to help Fatah try to win but now we are as a nation going to create more suffering for those in Palestine. That's an interesting message to send, vote for who the US government wants or we'll cut your aid. I missed that part of the definition for a democracy....

historymike said...

Yes, expected, though I suppose that I naively thought there would be a voice of common sense in the administration.

Looks like they are going to play hardball with Hamas, and I supect that Hamas will not be as easy to coopt as Fatah was.

There are some interesting historical parallels between Hamas and the IRA - I hope that the US will give Hamas time to demonstrate its commitment to good governance.

The wild card, of course, is the official Hamas stance vis a vis Israel. Are they hanging on to the "destroy Israel" plank out of stubbornness, to please their base, or do they really want to destroy Israel?

Of course, given the fact that the Israeli army can whoop any in the region (and, as we saw in 1967 and 1973, just about any combination or armies) the Hamas goal is pretty laughable.

Dariush said...

I think Dennis Perrin's post from a few days ago says it all.


Damn You, Democracy!

How many blue- or purple-fingered Hamas voters have you seen online today? Given our deep deep love of democracy, you'd think that bloggers far and wide would be posting numerous pix of happy Hamas supporters showing that they, too, are down with this voting thing. Yet, for some strange reason, I can't find any, save for a single photo on the NY Times site (but then, what can you expect from that America-hating rag?). Doesn't Hamas' electoral victory further prove that President Bush's freedom crusade in the Middle East is right on track?

As I've said before, for upstanding Americans, there is the Right Kind of Freedom, and there's the Wrong Kind of Freedom. Hugo Chavez winning in Venezuela was Wrong. Evo Morales winning in Bolivia -- Wrong. And Hamas winning the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament? Wrong, so very very Wrong.

Not that the US didn't try to steer Palestinian voters to vote Right. After all, we sunk some $2 million into the Palestinian Authority's coffers, another sign that Americans favor freedom (though only we are allowed to financially influence elections in other countries). But damn it, those Palestinians clearly didn't appreciate our altruism. Instead, they've handed the keys to a radical Islamic party. What does that say about their values?

Normally, I avoid most rightwing and related warblogs, simply because once you've read them, you've read them, and there's only so much monotonous kettle drumming I can take. But in the wake of Hamas' strong showing, I had to see what the Freedom Lovers were saying, and to a patriot they are pissed when not resigned to what some believe was an inevitable outcome. After all, the Palestinians are pretty much a terrorist race, and their electoral preference simply reinforces the fact. Roger "Hold On To Your Hat!" Simon opined, "I am glad Hamas won. Elections should reflect the will of the people and this one reflects the will of the Palestinians. Now we know." Ed Morrissey bluntly mused, "[T]he Palestinians should be judged by the choices they have made this week. They have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel over the two-state solution favored publicly (if not fervently) by Fatah . . .Clearly, the Palestinians want war, and they have made no secret of using their children and grandchildren as bomb fuses in order to perpetuate it." Cap'n Ed ended his post by fantasizing about Israeli-led ethnic cleansing, so his optimism for the region's future hasn't completely eroded.

When the Israelis voted in veterans of terrorist militias like Yitzhak Shamir, Menachem Begin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, men not only committed to war and territorial expansion, but also opposed to recognizing Palestinians as human beings, much less as equal negotiating partners, I don't remember many people writing that this proved that Israelis as a whole were devoted to state terrorism, or that Jews as a race reveled in war and endless bloodshed. And what about we fine Americans? Aren't we responsible, as a people, for re-electing Bush and thus endorsing his war and torture doctrine? There are plenty of people worldwide who believe this and think, should we get hit again by a terrorist attack, that we have it coming. But try saying that in the American media and see where it gets you. Yet when it comes to the Palestinians, few flinch when comparable arguments are made.

Amid these and other outbursts today, some rather relevant history is being studiously avoided. Much is being said about Hamas' past, but no one I've read is reminding us that Israel helped Hamas take its first serious steps as a political alternative to the PLO. Faced with a moderating Fatah that was calling for mutual recognition and mutual security guarantees, Israel, while continually rejecting these offers, began pushing and funding Hamas, which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to weigh down the PLO's secular nationalism and hopefully drain some of its support in the territories (as a US government official put it to UPI's Richard Sale in this 2002 piece, "The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place . . . Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with"). This, combined with corruption in Fatah and its relocation to Beirut, worked incredibly well, as we now see. Factor in Hamas providing social services in some of the poorest areas of the territories, as well as being seen by many powerless and brutalized Palestinians as standing up to Israel, and what happened yesterday is really no surprise.

There are those, like former Saddam supporter Daniel Pipes, who are calling for Hamas' destruction, claiming that Hamas is the same as al-Qaeda and therefore must perish. Apart from the fact that al-Qaeda is not a fixed political/religious party that runs candidates in open elections, and that unlike Hamas, which derives what power it has directly from its own people, al-Qaeda is parasitic, as seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, attempting to destroy Hamas would be largely impossible, and would result in a massive death toll, given its deep support in the territories. Plus, it would lead to more terrorism, which death cultists like Pipes would welcome since he could then call for more violence against the Arab/Persian world. As it stands, Hamas has declared that it will continue to honor the cease-fire it negotiated with Israel in February 2005, so long as Israel does the same. Why would you attack someone who is holding up their end of a cease-fire? Again, in Pipes' case, the answer is obvious.

How yesterday's Palestinian elections will ultimately shake down is anybody's guess. The Palestinians remain caged inside the West Bank and Gaza while surrounded by an Israeli military that has superior firepower. Much of their population are unemployed and live in abject poverty. That they went to the polls in such large numbers shows that the desire for some kind of political say hasn't been extinguished, but it has been seriously sharpened. Hamas isn't going away, and if one seriously wishes that its members moderate their views and take a political path, then perhaps calling for Hamas' violent extinction isn't the best tactic to employ, especially when it comes from Americans. Given our heavy role in grinding Palestinians into the dirt, we've said enough as it is.

MUST READ: I don't want to oversell this, but if you find extreme political stupidity at all humorous, then you cannot pass up this howler by Debbie Schlussel. So good that FrontPageMag carried it today. What better endorsement do you need?

Stefan Schmidt said...

This event proves that the administration is not concerned with democracy prevailing in this region but only with the ‘comfort’ of the state of Israel.

Why did we target Iraq? Why are we contemplating military action against Iran even though our military is already stretched thin?

It seems to me these countries only pose a threat to Israel.

I wonder how many troops Israel sent to Iraq. Oh, that’s right. None.

liberal_dem said...

Poor Condi, when she shed her Democratic roots for the right-wing neocons, her values were left behind as well.

Did you ever see a larger mess that the gang of 4 has gotten our country into? Everywhere they go, everything that they say and do has the negative-midas touch.

To use a right-wing phrase: it's pathetic!

M A F said...

Apparently the US is going to ignore the 800 Pound Gorilla.