Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Bit More on the Gaza Strip Diplomacy

June 22, 2010

A Bit More on the Gaza Strip Diplomacy
By Barry Rubin
Elsewhere, I have explained in great detail the changes in Israeli policy as well as the implications of Western policy in the Gaza Strip: economic normalization meaning also normalization of the existence of a Gaza Hamas-ruled statelet.

Israel, seeing that there is not going to be any "rollback" to remove Hamas from power has basically accepted a containment startegy of limited the military weaponry and capability of Hamas. Thus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained:

"The cabinet decision is the best one for Israel because it eliminates Hamas' main propaganda claim and allows us and our international allies to face our real concerns in the realm of security."

This is true as far as it goes except now Hamas merely switches to other supply matters--the quantity of goods, defining certain things as having no military value, demanding export rights--and even more important it forces Israel to drop its goal of bringing down the regime. As I noted earlier, this is not really a concession because, sadly, it was already clear that this was impossible given Western protection of the Hamas government.

But these countries are not finished yet in trying to improve the population's situation while actually helping Hamas.

The U.S. government and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Quartet negotiator have been critical of Israel's concessions as insufficient. While Israel is offering 130 truckloads a day of non-military goods and construction material only for demonstrably non-military projects, the U.S. and European governments want 400 trucks a day, which is what some aid agencies say is needed.

In addition, they want the Gaza Strip to be able to export goods, mainly agricultural, in order to make money.

On one level, the whole debate is absurd since they could just ask Egypt to open the border to this extent. But, of course, the intention is to pressure Israel. Ironically, if they demanded Egypt let more sent in, this would run up against Cairo's argument that it doesn't want to strengthen a revolutionary Islamist statelet on its own border.

It is amazing to see the extent to which the Western politicians are simply 100 percent deaf to the strategic implications of these issues. They don't want a Hamas regime attacking Israel or one that's military strengthened, but they just don't understand that any Hamas regime is going to attack Israel eventually--and not that far in the future.

The concept that a Hamas regime is going to spread revolutionary Islamism, subvert Israel, make any peace agreement impossible, strengthen Iranian influence in the Arab world, or do a half-dozen other things damaging to regional stability and Western influence does not seem to be crossing their minds.

It is easy to call Western leaders and diplomats names (fools, idiots, etc.) or to make fun of them. Yet on this specific failure such a response seems especially appropriate.

I'm Looking and I Don't See Any Palestinian State-Building Going On
By Barry Rubin
I read an article on Foreign Policy blog which, like many things I see on the Middle East, convinces me of the precise opposite conclusion to what the author wants me to think. The article, by Hussein Ibish, a Palestinian activist in the United States, is entitled: "While No One's Looking, the Palestinians Are Building a State: Now it's time for the rest of the world to pitch in. "

Well, I'm looking and I don't see any Palestinian state-building going on. Yes, there is some improvement in the West Bank security forces, including U.S. training, but the changes are not enormous. And at any moment, these forces could launch a war on Israel or start fighting each other. Yes, there is some economic improvement happening but it's based on foreign aid money and much of it is unproductive (i.e., real estate and housing speculation). And again, it could be blown up any moment in a new Palestinian-Israeli or Fatah-Hamas war or just major instability.

A more accurate title for this article would be: The Rest of the World has Pitched in, Paid Lots of Money, and the Palestinians Still Aren't Building a State!" The article provides not a single example of any material action being done to create strong institutions or do anything else that a state requires. Indeed, the only actual action was the passing of a resolution saying that the Palestinian Authority is building a state.

Here's the link but if I were you I wouldn't waste the time on it. Incidentally, his claim that half the PA budget comes from Palestinian taxation is totally ridiculous. But then any nonsense will do to drop on the West. The Western journalistic and intellectual discussion today is all too often like restaurant patrons who will gobble up offal gladly and proclaim it haute cuisine.

What's happening, though, and that's why this article is of some significance, is that the PA is trying to build a foundation for a unilateral declaration of independence in a year or two. That doesn't mean it will ever happen but rather than negotiate with Israel, a process requiring compromises and concessions, the PA prefers to have the world recognize it as a state without having to do anything: end the conflict, agree to resettle Palestinian refugees in Palestine, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, provide Israel with security guarantees, and so on.

Remember that the Palestinian Authority originated about 17 years ago. That means babies born then are now adults and the PA has done remarkably little to prepare for stable and well-governed statehood, not to mention losing the Gaza Strip to Hamas. And how can places like Foreign Policy blog run articles without a single real argument to prove its thesis?
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to  You can read and subscribe to his blog at

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