Monday, 19 February 2007

Finding progress — in Israel-Palestine peace talks

When I first heard of the multi-party Middle East peace talks — following US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s unannounced visit to Baghdad — a familiar feeling overcame me, a feeling often associated with events dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict that are not superficially negative. That feeling: one of no optimism, yet its nature wasn’t pessimistic either (optimistic pessimism or pessimistic optimism?). In fact, I was much more optimistic following the agreement over the Palestinian government’s power structure, which has looked to decrease factional violence and has been a step towards the PA’s legitimacy in western eyes — or it would be if the West opened up a bit to the fact Hamas has been elected by the people: deal with it. Remember Hamas also has two wings: their ‘terrorist’ militant wing and the more moderate political wing, same with Hezbollah.

For ages there has been strife in the Middle East, more so than in most other regions of the world. Basically nothing has been accomplished from these latest talks, and it looks as if that will be the norm unless one of the parties involved matures to a point where progress can at least be in sight. These talks were the first in six years between the leaders of Palestine and Israel, currently President Abbas of Fatah and President Olmert, respectively. I knew there'd be a schism between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Israel has the US's unequivocal support on nearly every move it makes. Palestine, the isolated underdog, has few real friends: many Arab states use it to get back at Israel, many in the West shun it for whatever reason.

On the US-Israel-Palestine summit,

Mr Olmert said on Sunday that US President George W Bush had privately promised Washington would join Israel in shunning any government including Hamas.

… Which is quite possibly the reason for the lax response to the forward-acting Abbas-Meshaal, Hamas-Fatah power sharing deal for the Palestinian Authority. Rice talked with Palestinian President Abbas alone on Sunday, probably trying to assert her influence before the new Palestinian government takes full form.

How can one be staunchly pro-democracy if one refuses to support democratic governments because of their politics, and support repressive authoritarian regimes, ignoring their principles — which contrast to one’s rhetoric? Bush cannot have it both ways. He seems to have chosen a metaphorical war on terrorism, which is mainly bolstered political rhetoric, over his sensible assumed belief in democracy, and insensible belief in forcing democracy on countries via regime changes.

One of the main issues: recognition. Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel outright and Israel and the US’s refusal to recognize a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. These are both, quite frankly, stupid actions of political posturing. Hamas will loose votes if it recognizes Israel’s right to be a state. It will also loose respect and legitimacy in the West’s eyes if it does not recognize Israel. Hamas gains political capital because of its harsh stance towards Israel. In case nobody noticed, Israel is not the most popular of Middle Eastern states, and it is very popular to be a hater of the unpopular in the eyes of the population that elects by popular vote. The United States and Israel — the more developed and ‘mature’ of the two sides — refuse to recognize the Palestinian government because of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel, and because they just don’t like Hamas.

The US is disliked in the Mid-East region for a number of regions, namely Iraq and other fronts of its ‘war on terror’, which has quite possibly accomplished more terror than it has eliminated — at least in the eyes of many around the globe. It has also bred terror (see my ‘fire paradox’) with poor counterterrorism efforts against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as ‘terrorism’ in general, politically. I think Israel and the US would be happier if there was a brutal dictatorship, a puppet state of hegemonic value to the US-Israel organization and tool of repression of the Palestinians, instead of a government of the Palestinian people’s choosing. A while back President Bush announced he was in favor of a Palestinian state, now it seems American and Israeli officials are sidestepping that issue…

For now the unified Hamas-Fatah Palestinian government, after a recent restructure, appears to be on track.

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