Sunday :: Mar 9, 2008

Fallout from the Bush Legacy: Israel's Gaza Problem

by Mary

Recently Israelis have been the targets of many rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. Listening to the media, it would seem that this demonstrates that Iran is the culprit behind this escalating problem. Here's what the Telegraph writes about the situation:

Israeli officials believe Iranian support for Hamas is behind the increasing number of terrorist attacks - including Thursday's deadly shooting in Jerusalem.

Their warnings that Hamas' use of stronger rockets and larger-scale incursions into Israel represent the escalation of a proxy war were echoed on Friday by Jordan's King Abdullah.

...Whether it amounts to a short-lived flare-up or a longer campaign, the violence can be attributed at least in part to the funding and inspiration supplied by Iran to Hamas and what Israelis see as its Shiite counterpart in Lebanon, the Islamist movement Hizbollah.

...The latest violence can be linked directly to Israel's operation last weekend in Gaza, where around 120 Palestinians including 22 children were killed in a 48-hour offensive aimed at slowing deadly rocket fire on Israeli cities.

...Meanwhile, militants in Gaza are still firing rockets, including the more powerful, prefabricated grad rockets, with a longer range and greater payload. It is widely believed Hamas obtained many more of these rockets, with financial aid from Iran, when the border between Gaza and Egypt was blown open for nearly a week in January.

One thing that isn't mentioned is the exposé that Vanity Fair published about how and why Hamas grabbed control of Gaza and where else they might have gotten their more powerful weapons.

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

The Bush administration refused to consider the Hamas election victory legitimate and so they immediately started to see what they could do to undermine the democratically elected Hamas government.

Now we find out that Hamas decided to attack Fatah after discovering that the Bush administration was backing a new strongman widely hated by Hamas and helping arm the Fatah forces with more deadly weapons so they could overcome Hamas by overwhelming force. Reading the piece makes it clear that the strongman that the Bush administration chose was one of the vicious torturers created in a region which has waged a dirty war on those who refuse to follow and defer to their "leaders" -- a plan which even the some of the neocons found to be too much. And worse, many warned that Fatah was badly corrupted and too weak to do what the Bush administration wanted it to do. Of course, the warnings that this particular plan was dangerous and could badly backfire was ignored.

On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.

...How could the U.S. have played Gaza so wrong? Neocon critics of the administration—who until last year were inside it—blame an old State Department vice: the rush to anoint a strongman instead of solving problems directly. This ploy has failed in places as diverse as Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, during its war against Iran. To rely on proxies such as Muhammad Dahlan, says former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, is "an institutional failure, a failure of strategy." Its author, he says, was Rice, "who, like others in the dying days of this administration, is looking for legacy. Having failed to heed the warning not to hold the elections, they tried to avoid the result through Dayton."

With few good options left, the administration now appears to be rethinking its blanket refusal to engage with Hamas. Staffers at the National Security Council and the Pentagon recently put out discreet feelers to academic experts, asking them for papers describing Hamas and its principal protagonists. "They say they won’t talk to Hamas," says one such expert, "but in the end they’re going to have to. It’s inevitable."

It is impossible to say for sure whether the outcome in Gaza would have been any better—for the Palestinian people, for the Israelis, and for America’s allies in Fatah—if the Bush administration had pursued a different policy. One thing, however, seems certain: it could not be any worse.

Isn't it more likely that some of the weapons that are now in the hands of the Hamas are there because of the stupid and reckless gamble of Bush and Rice as they sought to use Bush's "our guy" to stamp down on the unruly Gazans?

Mary :: 5:00 PM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!