Tag Archives: George W Bush

Corporate media delete U.S. role in Hamas-Fatah split

In response to the youth of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank rising up on March 14 and 15 to call for Palestinian political unity, both the leaders of Fatah and Hamas pledged to enter into talks aimed at reconciliation.  Most recently, President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah “met with senior Hamas officials to discuss a proposed trip to Gaza and efforts to mend internal Palestinian division by forming a unity government,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

With those talks came a spate of articles in the U.S. corporate media about the efforts at reconciliation.  But in providing background on why these talks are happening, and the roots of the split between Hamas and Fatah, media outlets have deleted the crucial role the U.S. played in fomenting that split.

The New York Times explained that:

[Abbas had] not set foot in Gaza in the four years since a brief, bloody civil war there sent him and his Fatah colleagues fleeing to the West Bank…Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in early 2006, and, for a brief time, Fatah and Hamas had a national unity government. But tensions between them led to the fighting and a break in communications.

TIME magazine’s Karl Vick similarly put it this way:

Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah party that governs the West Bank, has accepted an invitation from rival Hamas to travel to the Gaza Strip. The visit would be the first since Hamas drove Fatah operatives out of Gaza in 2007 — throwing some off from the tops of buildings — in the turmoil that followed Hamas’ surprise victory in elections months earlier.

All of these accounts don’t mention where the “turmoil” and the breakup of the short-lived national unity government between Hamas and Fatah following the 2006 elections came from.  The expose of the Bush administration’s role in the split by David Rose in Vanity Fair remains essential reading for those wanting to understand the roots of the split.

Some crucial excerpts:

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza…

Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.

Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says…

Without this back story, why there is a bitter Hamas-Fatah split remains obscured.  The least the U.S. media could do is provide a sentence explaining these facts.

The Bush-Obama line on Palestine: forget ’67

The election of President Barack Obama brought great hope that his administration could be the one to bring about a settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  But Obama has largely followed the Bush administration’s pro-Israel slant.  New documents released by WikiLeaks and Al Jazeera shed further light on the continuation of the Bush administration’s disastrous policy on Israel/Palestine.

As part of its ongoing release of secret State Department cables, WikiLeaks yesterday released documents concerning Brazil.  One 2005 document, written from the U.S. embassy in Brazil, centers on a first-time gathering in Brazil between Arab and South American leaders.  The U.S. was worried about language concerning Israel/Palestine in the final document that came out of the summit:

Despite repeated Brazilian promises over many months that the Summit Declaration would not contain language inimical to Middle East peace efforts, the final text contains problematic paragraphs that existed in earlier declaration drafts. In addition to the demand that Israel withdraw to its June 4, 1967 frontiers, the declaration also calls on Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice July 2004 decision on dismantling the security wall.

The reference to the 1967 borders and the International Court of Justice decision as “problematic” is unsurprising, given that the Bush administration showed the utmost contempt for international law.  This cable further confirms the Bush administration’s double-dealings when it came to the borders of a future Palestinian state:  while the Bush administration backed the 2003 Road Map that called for a halt to Israeli settlement building, a secret letter to the Israeli government contradicts that plan:

In a key sentence in Bush’s 2004 letter, the president stated, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

Contempt for international law, and support for Israel’s insistence that negotiations not be based on the 1967 borders, has continued into the Obama administration.  Despite President Obama’s pledge in 2009 to push for a “viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967,” documents published by Al Jazeera as part of the “Palestine Papers” tell a different story.  Ali Abunimah, writing in Al Jazeera, analyzes:

The next day [after Obama's 2009 UN speech] during a meeting at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York, Erekat refused an American request to adopt Obama’s speech as the terms of reference for negotiations. Erekat asked Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale why the Obama administration would not explicitly state that the intended outcome of negotiations would be a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with a third party security role and a staged Israeli withdrawal. Hale responded, “You ask why? How would it help you if we state something so specific and then not be able to deliver?” according to Palestinian minutes of the meeting.

At the same meeting, which Mitchell himself later joined, Erekat challenged the US envoy on how Obama could publicly endorse Israel as a “Jewish state” but not commit to the 1967 borders. Mitchell, according to the minutes, told Erekat “You can’t negotiate detailed ToRs [terms of reference for the negotiations]” so the Palestinians might as well be “positive” and proceed directly to negotiations. Erekat viewed Mitchell’s position as a US abandonment of the Road Map.

On 2 October 2009 Mitchell met with Erekat at the State Department and again attempted to persuade the Palestinian team to return to negotiations. Despite Erekat’s entreaties that the US should stand by its earlier positions, Mitchell responded, “If you think Obama will force the option you’ve described, you are seriously misreading him. I am begging you to take this opportunity.”

Erekat replied, according to the minutes, “All I ask is to say two states on 67 border with agreed modifications. This protects me against Israeli greed and land grab – it allows Israel to keep some realities on the ground” (a reference to Palestinian willingness to allow Israel to annex some West Bank settlements as part of minor land swaps). Erekat argued that this position had been explicitly endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under the Bush administration.

“Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don’t use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements – not discussions or statements,” Mitchell reportedly said.

The US envoy was firm that if the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not agree to language in the terms of reference the US would not try to force it. Yet Mitchell continued to pressure the Palestinian side to adopt formulas the Palestinians feared would give Israel leeway to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank without providing any compensation.

At a critical 21 October 2009 meeting, Mitchell read out proposed language for terms of reference:

“The US believes that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that achieves both the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state encompassing all the territory occupied in 1967 or its equivalent in value, and the Israeli goal of secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meets Israeli security requirements.”

Erekat’s response was blunt: “So no Road Map?” The implication of the words “or equivalent in value” is that the US would only commit to Palestinians receiving a specific amount of territory — 6258 square kilometers, or the equivalent area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — but not to any specific borders.

‘West Bank First’ Approach Failing Miserably

Elliott Abrams, one of the key players in the attempted U.S.-backed coup in 2007 to install Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party as the sole Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has a short piece in Foreign Policy arguing for more of the same “West Bank first” approach to Palestine.

Abrams’ suggestion has been in place since the end of the Bush administration’s second term, and it has produced absolutely nothing good.

The “West Bank first” approach refers to the policy, first begun by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, of showering the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank with aid, international backing and training for security forces in an attempt to weaken the Hamas-run government in Gaza by drawing a stark contrast between the living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.  The approach also further legitimizes the decades-long Israeli goal of separating the West Bank from Gaza, therefore precluding the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

Not only is this approach undemocratic and dismissive of Palestinians’ electoral choices, it is also failing miserably.  Hamas is doing a much better job at governing than the Palestinian Authority.

Professor Menachem Klein, an Israeli who teaches at Bar-Ilan University, writes today in Ha’aretz:

A question: Which government functions better, that of Salam Fayyad in the West Bank or that of Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Answer: The Hamas government. Another question: Which of the two governments would stop functioning without foreign aid? Answer: The West Bank one.

Ismail Haniyeh’s government functions well, despite the blockade of Gaza, the diplomatic boycott and the lack of assistance from large international organizations. Fayyad’s considerable personal abilities, the success of his technocratic government in improving living conditions in the West Bank, the excellent foreign relations maintained by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the extensive aid Fayyad’s government receives have not created a more effective government than the one run by Hamas. These are the conclusions of a new study by Dr. Yezid Sayigh from King’s College, London.

Furthermore, the popular belief that the Hamas regime is brutal while the Abbas-Fayyad government is democratic is also mistaken. Hamas came to power in real, democratic, internationally-monitored elections – a process unprecedented in the Arab world. By contrast, President Abbas’ legal term of office ended long ago, yet he has not left office.