Thursday, January 01, 2009

Why Gaza Demonstrates the Failure of Bush's Policy in The Middle East

Ephraim Sneh outlines Israel's real objective in Gaza - removal of Hamas from power, as well as the reason why the status quo could not be tolerated any longer.

Such an objective illustrates the total failure of the Bush Administration's approach to the Middle East: relying on simplistic rhetoric of bringing "democracy" while pursuing a drastically misguided self-interested course in oil politics.

Gaza illustrates the problem perfectly: it's a democratically elected government that is committed to terrorism and the destruction of it's intractably entangled Democratic neighbor. Bringing "democracy" to Gaza has brought nothing but disaster to the Palestinians and terror to Israelis.

The Bush Administration's rhetoric made the U.S. impotent to face such a development, or to move negotiations forward. No peace was achievable as long as Hamas remained in power. Yet Bush's team was powerless to do anything about it, since by championing "Democracy" at the expense of all other results, the U.S. had no position it could take other than to attempt to ignore Gaza as long as possible. But ignoring a ticking time bomb doesn't stop it from eventually going off; in the intervening years, Palestinian society has disintegrated into warring factions, Israel and Fatah have forged relationships in the West Bank, and Gaza has essentially become a prison. Such is what became of the Palestinian aspirations for territorial integrity and self rule.

Paradoxically, Israel's incursion into Gaza is precisely what gives the incoming Obama administration a chance to restart the peace process. The action is timed perfectly with the waning days of Bush so that most military objectives can be completed by the day Obama takes office, and the current lame duck President has little political capital to use to intervene or object.

Both Obama and Bush seem to have at least tacitly - if not willingly behind the scenes - endorsed the interregnum timing, which has a natural expiration date of January 20th, when a new administration is sworn in and will have to be seen to be "doing something."

But by that time, Hamas's leadership will be disorganized, the tunnels and rockets destroyed, and the population disillusioned in their elected leaders. It's only at that point that a new Palestinian leadership can emerge - one that can reasonably negotiate both with Fatah in the West Bank and Israel.

In way, then, Israel has given the incoming Obama administration (as well as Abbas and Fatah in the West Bank) a great gift: a real chance to go beyond the logic of the last eight years and restart the peace process under realistic terms with a more moderate and unified Palistinian government. That is, unless the U.S. and the world pressure Israel to stop it's actions early. But such a stop to the incursion will neither achieve prosperity for the Palestinians or security for Israel. Only the elimination of Hamas from power will do that.

In this case, the Democratic will of the people produced an outcome that was certain to destabilize the entire region. In such a case, the only thing that can result - either sooner, or later - is war. That it has should be no surprise. The result of war is terrible, of course, and there is terrible loss on both sides. Those who regret this should ask themselves, on all sides, whether or not their ideology has stood in the way of finding a way for these two societies to live peacefully next to each other.

And those who hope for peace in the region should join Palestinians in the West Bank in helping Israel to achieve it's immediate objectives as quickly as possible. For until a government exists in Gaza that can accept an Israeli state, no peace is possible.

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