Saturday, April 15, 2006

Palestine civil war watch

Unpaid members of Palestinian security forces occupied goverment buildings and demanded that they get paid at once -- a demand that the cash-strapped Hamas-led government, hit with a suspension of financial aid from the United States and the EU, is totally unable to meet.

Russia, breaking with the West, promised immediate aid. And Hamas voiced the hope that Arab governments would step in to help, too.

There are a lot of interlocking factors at work here. For instance:

1. The protesters are mostly members of Fatah, Hamas' political rival. So the protest could be a sign of impending clashes -- or simply an attempt to put political pressure on Hamas.

2. If Russia comes through with the aid, and Arab governments do to, than our suspension of aid will have greatly increased their influence at our expense. The worst thing for the West would be for the Palestinians to discover they don't need us.

3. Hamas is unlikely to tolerate being forced to capitulate on recognizing Israel due to financial and political pressure from the West. Even if they do so, will they mean it?

I think suspending the aid so quickly was a mistake. It showed a lack of faith that the Palestinian people could hold Hamas responsible, and it has worsened a bad situation.

What we should have done was gone to Hamas behind the scenes and said "look, you have to recognize Israel's right to exist by such-and-such a date or we will suspend our aid." That would make it clear that actions have consequences, but it would have given them time to review their position without being backed into a corner and having to lose face, as well as maintaining our influence through their continued dependence on Western financial aid.

In dangerous situations, it's good policy to make sure you always have at least one bullet left. Now, having used our one and only bullet, we can only sit back and hope for the best.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A better suggestion would have been not to tie the aid to recognition at all. If they said it right now would israel or anyone else believe it?

Instead tie it to actions. Make it clear that they have to reign in attacks on israel, address corruption, support law and order. Govern. If they don't, then cut the aid. Actual results on the ground would support peace, and mutual confidence on both sides, and would promote peace better than empty platitudes and declarations.

How far did Arafat's renouncing terror and recognizing israel get anybody?

4/15/2006 11:06 PM  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Reining in the terror as a standard doesn't work because there are too many rogue groups.

Declaration of intent allows both parties to save face to negotiate.

But in the long run, only the complete defeat of Palestinian violence will mean anything. Surely the years of dialogue with Arafat showed that negotiations themselves were meaningless.

4/16/2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Both words and actions matter. Hamas renouncing violence would be a huge step, and should come with rewards. Actions would be a crucial test, but it would have to be a flexible approach because of the complexity of the situation, as Ibrahamav points out.

Holding Hamas responsible for all violence doesn't make sense. Hold it responsible for its role and actions, and accept as success a decline in violence over time, instead of expecting the immediate cessation of all violence.

4/16/2006 8:48 AM  

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