Sunday, May 07, 2006

Israel and the US using the wrong tactics with the Palestinians and Hamas

When someone like the former World Bank chief and international Middle East peace envoy James Wolfensohn says the Western boycott of the Hamas-led government is a bad idea, his warning should be taken seriously, especially by the Quartet Committee when it meets in New York next week. [Full article requires registration]

Just before resigning from his post as the Quartet's special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Wolfensohn submitted a final report last week criticizing the U.S. and European aid cut to the elected Hamas government, saying it will lead to the collapse of Palestinian Authority institutions the international community has helped to build up in the past 12 years to prepare for a viable Palestinian state.

"Over the past few years, the international community has spent about $1 billion annually on assistance to the Palestinians, much of it directed at ensuring that credible and well-functioning Palestinian institutions are built," Wolfensohn's report said. "Will we now simply abandon these goals?"

The Quartet Committee -- made up of the United States, Russia, European Union and the U.N. -- was formed to mediate a peaceful Palestinian-Israeli settlement and drafted a now-frozen "road map" envisioning a two-state solution.

Wolfensohn officially stepped down as the Quartet's envoy on April 30 because of Western restrictions in dealing with a Palestinian government run by Hamas, deemed by the United States and Europe as a terrorist organization.

The analysts add that Wolfensohn's report, as well as the European Commission's, acknowledges the dangerous repercussions the sanctions can have on Palestinian conditions.

But the powerful Western countries fail to foresee that continued pressure on a cornered Hamas government, with a stateless people paying the price for their votes, will backfire.

They argue that Wolfensohn's conclusions should be taken seriously by the Western powers, especially the United States, if they want to prevent a rise of Islamic extremism and more violence that additional poverty, unemployment and frustration the sanctions are causing the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.

If Israel, which suspended the transfer of $60 million in monthly tax revenues owed to the Palestinians, and Washington believe that enough pressure would drive Abbas to dissolve the government and call for new elections that would end Hamas' rule, they are mistaken, analysts insist.

Squeezing the Palestinian population, accompanied by continued Israeli strikes and assassinations while Hamas has so far managed to maintain a unilateral ceasefire, is making Hamas more popular at home and the Islamic movement may fare even better in another election.


Post a Comment

<< Home