Obama and EU: A Unified Palestine Under Abbas

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the State Department in Washington January 22, 2009. From left are Richard Holbrooke, envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden, Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the State Department in Washington January 22, 2009. From left are Richard Holbrooke, envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden, Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

By Yousef K.B.

“Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating. Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them. The United States will fully support an international donor’s conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction for the Palestinian economy. This assistance will be provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority” (Obama’s speech to State Department officials).

If you read the excerpt, you can see how Obama is moving clearly on the path demarcated by the Israeli strategy I proposed, in which Hamas is put on the defensive through Israeli attacks, the time gained is used to prop up the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.  This is being done when Obama talks of an “appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.”  This means bringing back PA security forces back into Gaza along with PA functionaries who currently only control the West Bank. Across the Atlantic the call for the imposition of Abbas’s Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank was just as explicit. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the EU presidency stated that “Palestinian reconciliation behind president Mahmoud Abbas is fundamental to progress” and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband commented that the “reunification of the Palestinian people with a single voice to speak to them, to speak for the West Bank and for Gaza is absolutely essential.”

Immediately following such a unification, the plan will be to hold a donor conference where two things will occur: 1) promise aid based on neo-liberal economic foundations, not only linking Palestine to transnational capital circuits, but also creating a Palestinian elite who is materially integrated in transnational circuits (look at Lebanon after 2006, and Iraq after 2003 as earlier examples of similar strategy) 2) to channel the aid as Obama says to be “provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority.”  This will give the PA the capital to invest into services and “reconstruction” that it then can be used to build legitimacy for its authority in opposition to Hamas.  Moreover this aid will come along with a march of NGOs that will attempt to influence the civil society of Palestine, building further the legitimacy of the PA.

The call of Obama for this reconstruction money is part of the larger strategy that I have forwarded regarding Palestine.  This is the second phase of the strategy following the Gaza bombardment, that will culminate in marginalizing political factions in Palestine, including members of Fatah itself, that are not aligned with Mahmood Abbas’s cadre.  By so doing Israel and its partner in the White House will be able to prop up as a legitimate representative body of Palestinians the only Palestinians willing to concede the Palestinian right of return, recognize Israel within the illegal walls it has created for itself, and postpone the question of Israeli settlements, in return for a Palestinian state that it can lead itself with the repression that it has shown quite recently against protesters in the West Bank.  The political achievement for Israel will then come when the Palestinian national liberation movement will cease, in favor for a Palestinian state, hollowed out of the aspirations that originally imagined it, replaced by a sell-out version of its earlier self.

It seems easy to forget that Hamas won the elections and is the legitimate government, Abbas appointed a PM illegally, that Abbas’s terms as president is over and new elections should be held now, that Hamas continuously called for a cease fire that was rejected by the Israeli regime, and Hamas is making continuous calls for talking to the west that go unheard.

Through it all, I hope that Professor Richard Falk‘s (The UN special Rapporteur on Israeli actions) predictions are proven true, instead of mine:
“After the Gaza War it seems likely that the Palestinian struggle for self-determination has risen to the top of the global justice agenda, and this represents a major victory for Hamas in the second war… Military campaigns that have a clear beginning and end, as well as a visible battlefield that offers a theater of death and destruction. In contrast, legitimacy wars have no clear boundaries, and involve subtle shifts of public opinion that at some point reach a tipping point that alters the overall political climate one way or the other. My contention is that the Gaza War, especially against the background of the prior siege and the 2006 Lebanon War, is approaching that tipping point, giving the Palestinians a glimpse of eventual victory despite the frightful punishment recently inflicted upon the population of Gaza. The prevailing fragile ceasefire that has been accepted by both sides poses new challenges and opportunities. There are some hopeful scenarios, but depending on leaps of imagination and faith, so lacking on both sides in the past. Hamas could confirm its willingness to behave as a political actor, and refrain from firing rockets at civilians. Israel could seek to recover in the legitimacy war by dropping the terrorist label and deal with Hamas as a political actor, explore the possibilities of the Hamas offer of a long-term ceasefire, and show a genuine willingness to engage in a peace process on the basis of the 2002 Mecca Proposals that offer both Israelis and Palestinians a promising way even at this late stage to climb out of the deeper recesses of the Inferno.”

I’m just not that hopeful, and think that the Obama administration will be an effective partner to the Israeli regime in this crucial time when it needs international legitimacy, which it will borrow from Obama’s reserve of political capital.

***

Here is a full interview done with Professor Richard Falk:

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