Monday, February 20, 2006

Is This A Strategy?

Although a new government of the Palestinian Authority is not yet in place, both Israel and the United States looks like doing whatever they can to deprive it of any financial means.

Israel is withholding the taxes and customs it is collecting - but which legally belong to the Palestinian Authority - while the US is campaigning in the Arab world against anyone giving any sort of financial support.

Although it has been denied, this certainly looks like a deliberate destabilisation strategy.

But where is it heading?

I assume that the aim must be to bring about a collapse of the Palestinian Authority. If it can't pay wages and other running costs, it risks collapsing sooner or later. There is likely to be serious social and economic hardship as well as political turmoil in the West Bank and Gaza.

That's certainly achievable. The question is what is supposed to be the next step.

Perhaps the idea is to force a new election to be called at that point. But one must ask whether it is more likely that a more moderate or a more radical view would emerge victorious in such a situation? My bet would be that in such a scenario of escalating confrontation you would have the radicals - Hamas or worse - doing even better.

If this should be avoided, I guess the only alternative would be for the Israeli occupation authority to ban new elections, obviously with the support of the United States. But such a move would be seen as the end of all the talk about bringing democracy and freedom to the Muslim world.

It would be truly disastrous. For all its problems, the strategy of opening up the Arab world for more of democracy has to be the right one. To shoot it down would be to invite explosions in the one country after the other in the years to come.

And if new elections are banned in Palestine at the same time as radicals are gathering strength and the economic and social situation deterioates - what good is supposed to come out of that?

Isn't there also a possibility that we will see a solidarity movement with Hamas exploding on the streets of Baghdad, Cairo and Amman under such a scenario?

To me, what we now see looks like an ill-thought through reaction dictated more by the mood prior to the March elections in Israel than a serious long-term strategy to deal with a genuinely very difficult issue.

But if this strategy - unwise aws it is - prevails, I would argue that one should carry it through logically.

Under this strategy, purely humanitarian aid would still be allowed. That includes all of what the United Nations is doing in the area.

But this aid is in reality an aid to the Israeli occupation authorities. It relieves them of the burden that they have under international law. If also all humanitarian aid was stopped, you would in all probability see a very rapid deterioation of the situation in the area, which would very fast go over into serious armed action and fighting.

But perhaps this would force Israel to face the real choice that is there: either it accepts its full responsibilities as an occupation authority, or it accepts to withdraw and help in the building of a Palestine state.

The former option would risk destroying Israel. The later one is marginally less difficult, but long term the only one that is viable. Posted by Picasa