Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bush is pushing the Palestinians toward civil war

Talk is cheap: Bush is pushing the Palestinians toward civil war
February 19, 2007 Editorial, TheDailyStar

US President George W. Bush likes to remind people that he is on record as officially supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. The most powerful man on the planet boasts, too, that his policy is to work with "moderate" Arabs in order to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. For these reasons and a host of others, his administration's unaccommodating reaction to the intra-Palestinian deal on forming a unity government is profoundly disappointing, if not terribly surprising.

President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya of Hamas reached their agreement at talks hosted by Saudi Arabia, one of the countries credited by Washington with making positive contributions to the cause of regional stability. Others like Egypt and Jordan have beseeched the United States to move quickly lest the current window of opportunity be closed for the foreseeable future. Despite the frequency with which such governments have toed the American line (at great risk to their own domestic and regional credibility), however, it now seems that the Hamas-Fatah deal is insufficient to satisfy America's conditions for recognizing a new Palestinian Cabinet.

This part of the world is intimately familiar with Washington's habit of seeking to impose double standards, and no one has been on the wrong end of such attempts more regularly than the Palestinians, but the Bush administration is breaking new ground in terms of duplicity and inconsistency. Not satisfied with having starved and intimidated a freely and fairly elected government into sharing power at home, the Americans are now trying to dictate the new government's foreign policy as well. Officially stated "respect" for previous interim peace accords signed with Israel, for example, is not enough: The Palestinians must vow to abide in perpetuity by the terms of the Oslo process. It does not matter to Bush that key items of Oslo have been altered (in Israel's favor) under US pressure, that the Jewish state has used the peace process to radically increase the number of colonists living in the West Bank, that it has militarily reoccupied the same piece of land, or that a then-Israeli prime minister has already declared the Oslo Accords "dead." Instead, the Palestinians are expected to follow the rules that their occupiers are paid to flout, to renounce the use of force against a well-armed enemy that frequently kills more children than combatants, and to promise full recognition of a state that refuses to so much as sign - let alone obey - the Geneva Convention on protecting civilians.

Washington's record in the peace process is mostly one of good intentions hamstrung by internal political concerns. Since Bush came to office, though, it has looked and sounded a lot more like deliberate machinations aimed at delaying any progress until the Palestinians either accept a sickeningly unfair agreement or go to war with one another over the question of whether or not to yield. The situation remains perilously close to the latter tragedy, and Bush is actively pushing in the wrong direction.