Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Israeli (former) politicians - Get the facts straight, then go blind

Here's another translation. Original here. This time I'll comment at the end of it as well.
What is the Alternative?

Pini Midan-Sheni warns against the haste to make the Hamas government collapse. It might be to their benefit.

The job of Prime Minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a relatively new one, that was born at the behest of the European Union and with the support of the Quartet. It was designed to provide an 'Arafat bypass road'. None other than Abu Mazen was the first appointed to the job. Now that it seems that 'the dummy has risen against its maker', we are looking for a 'Hamas bypass road', that will give the authority back to the President.

Recently we have been witness to a violent struggle for control in the PA between [Fatah and Hamas]. Abu Mazen has been quoted as saying that within three months, the Hamas government will collapse if its leaders will not be wise enough to substantially change their positions.

Will another round of elections return doves and moderates to power? In what circumstances will the Palestinians voter return his confidence to Fatah or to another independent body? Is there a political body that could both win elections and rule, with the assumption that the Hamas will continue to command the support of around 40% of parliament?

In order to answer these questions we must make a number of basic assumptions. Hamas's victory over Fatah with 44% vs 41% of the vote was made possible after Fatah failed in the building of a governatorial system that would have supplied civilian needs, and left the bulk of education, health and social services in the hands of Hamas. The corruption in the PA is not significantly different from that in other democracies in our region. The central difference is that the Palestinian leadership did not manage to translate its force into the establishment of a stable system.

The Palestinian population wanted to punish its leaders for their powerlessness, the slump in economic conditions, the loss of feeling of security and the failure to implement political vision. The method of elections, by which half the members of parliament were elected from local lists and half in national lists, also made it easier for Hamas. Additionally, the factionalism and internal struggle in Fatah, due to the split between the younger and older generation, prevent it [Fatah] from presenting a unified list and thus played into the hands of Hamas.

Hamas, that is seen as clean-handed in the socio-economic sphere, managed to convert the feelings of desperation regarding the struggle for national dignity and religious values. Due to this, if the Hamas government collapses, the Palestinian voter will consider changing his vote only if he is convinced that a substantial change in the status quo occurred.

That is, the Palestinian voter must be convinced that the Hamas government failed and that it is not suitable to lead the state. He must believe that this failure is the result of a mistaken direction, that has brought to the cutting of foreign aid, and that Hamas itself is the motivation for Israel's drive to complete the separation fence and its expressed desire to take unilateral steps, whose end-result is the shrinking of a future Palestinian state.

But even if he is convinced of these things, there still needs to be a serious alternative that loyally represent the national and personal interests of Palestinians. An early collapse of the Hamas government, without the formation of an alternative political force, could result in its re-election, which will solidify a base for many years of its rule.

Convincing the voter that a political compromise is not a concession of national dignity, and that it is not a surrender to the political and cultural values of the West, requires much time and a clear and lengthy policy of 'carrot and stick'. When the voter is convinced that the rule of Hamas puts him a generation backwards, and especially that there is a leader whom he can trust will lead towards the goals with determination, then the voter will change his position.

Until then, we should calculate our moves carefully, avoid the illusions of quick changes and solution and persist in the struggle, on the side of those who will in the future be the alternative.

The writer was previously a foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Barak.
OK, now to comment...

How much more colonialist can you get?!?! The writer of this piece first talks about how Fatah failed (passively, of course), then about what Israeli policy vis-a-vis the new government should be in order to bring about desired results. It is as if Israel had no hand in the collapse of Fatah!

Economic isolation of the Occupied Territories is nothing new, it is just exacerbated now. Israel has been the prime agent of economic collapse, far before the election of Hamas. The policy of closure brought to economic and intra-cultural isolation, destroying the socio-economic fabric of Palestinian society. Additionally, closures brought the rise of domestic (and other) violence and of fundamentalist leanings.

An explanation is warranted: one of the major effects of closure was the massive rise in unemployment in the Occupied Territories. As a result, men (the primary workers in Palestinian society) were forced to stay at home. Thus the lack of employment, added to the constant violence from the Israeli army, brought to frustration among a large section of the male population, which led to the classical 'easy ways out' - religion and violence. This gave fundamentalist-tending groups like Hamas more sway. The economic and political isolation of Arafat (and thus of the entire PA) left "the bulk of education, health and social services in the hands of Hamas", who were well-funded by outside sources, including Iran. The coming of Hamas to power was therefore not unexpected, although Western media made it seem a huge surprise.

Since the election of Hamas, economic isolation has been made more severe by Israel and American sanctions. The one and only effect this can have (and is having) is the further radicalization of many sections of Palestinian society. Israel seems to have the idea that it can force the collapse of Hamas by further economic and military pressure. Since there is no viable alternative to Hamas and the Fatah 'old-guard', the result of such a governmental collapse would not be the election of such an alternative, but rather a civil war.

If Israel was interested in an alternative, it would promptly release Marwan Barghouti, the de-facto leader of the Fatah 'young-guard'. Barghouti has recently been active in an attempt to unify the various factions, as he has attempted to do previously. He enjoys much respect and support throughout the West Bank and Gaza and is probably the only viable alternative to Hamas and to Abu-Mazen.

The Palestinian voter is unlikely to blame the Hamas government for the cutting of foreign aid and for the accelerated completion of the Apartheid barrier. The reason for this is simple: Israel and the US never gave Hamas a chance before jumping to cut aid and further isolate the PA. It is clear not just to Palestinians, but to any objective outside observer that the fault lies with Israel, not with Hamas.

It is also clear to any outside observer that Israel is attempting to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government. This is seen not only in the economic sanctions Israel has been pushing, but also in the increased military activity, the increase in the number of checkpoints and closures and so on.

Israeli policy makers are not stupid. They know full-well that a collapse of the PA will bring to civil war or to something very much resembling it. It's difficult not to conclude that Israel is interested in such a result.

What would be the point of fermenting violence? Well, Israel has been pushing further unilateral moves. During Olmert's recent trip to the US, he received very qualified support for his unilateral 'Convergence' plan. In the mind of Israeli policy-makers, the goal is to demonstrate once again to the US (and the larger international community) that 'there is no partner' for negotiations and thus that unilateral moves are the only way out. There is no partner for negotiations if that partner is constantly busy trying to prevent the entire fabric of Palestinian society from collapsing in on itself. Thus the fermentation of violence will allow Israel to get stronger US support for its plan to keep the larger settlement blocks in the West Bank, very much against international law.

Israel is and always has been a military state. The perceived solutions to problems are thus military and violent. In this case, the reasoning behind Israeli policy is simple: present to the world a picture of Palestinian non-viability and internal instability and if that does not exist, create it.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a good one Rann: any objective outside observer !

Jokes, even unintentional asside, the whole thing can be summed up by "divide and conquer" this time with the twist you so pregnatly identified.

Monday, May 29, 2006 11:07:00 AM

Blogger Rann said...

I do wish you'd identify yourself, it's easy hiding being anonymous comments.

Anyway, that may have been a little bit strong, but my point remains: Israel never gave Hamas a chance to prove itself in government, so Hamas's governatorial practices cannot be blamed for the increased economic isolation. So yes, objectively the fault lies with Israel (and the US).

Monday, May 29, 2006 11:31:00 AM


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