Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Hamas Taking Over Gaza

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

Since I've last posted a lot has happened in the Palestinian territories; Hamas has taken full control of Gaza, and President Abbas has moved to dissolve the existing parliament, and replacing Hamas' cabinet members with Fatah loyalists.

Read more here, here, here, and here.

Now that the territories are effectively split between the newly declared Islamic state run by Hamas in Gaza, and the Abbas stronghold in the West Bank, the United States is going to recommend to Isreali Prime Minister Olmert that his country ease certain restrictions in the West bank, in order to give more political legitimacy to Abbas. The U.S has shown signs of acceptance towards Hamas in the Gaza strip, with some predicting the last option for Secretary of State Rice is to develop the West bank economically and improve living standards to show Palestinians they are better off under Fatah than Hamas. From an article in today's IHT by Helene Cooper, which I can't find online:

The State Department Insisted that the United States had no plans to abandon Palestinians living in Gaza. Many Diplomats and Middle East experts said they read Abbas's decision (to dissolve parliament, surrender compound) as an attempt to cut his losses in Gaza and consolidate power in the West Bank. Israeli Officials are promoting a proposal that West Bank and Gaza be viewed as seperate entities and that Israel act more forcefully in Gaza to crack down on Hamas militants.

More on that here:

The Israeli official said: "If the new Government recognises the quartet's conditions, Israel will be glad to return to full co-operation with it, including in the financial issues."

The boycott was imposed more than a year ago after Hamas - considered a terror outfit by the EU, US and Israel - assumed power.

The conditions include recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and agreeing to abide by past interim peace deals.

Mr Abbas fired the Hamas-led government on Thursday as fighters from the Islamists' armed wing and paramilitary force in Gaza overran Palestinian security services loyal to his Fatah party.

Earlier, another senior Israeli official said: "Hamas's move may allow new opportunities after Abbas fired the government. Maybe now there is a real chance to strengthen the moderates in the Palestinian Authority which we have been unable to do so far because of Hamas's participation in the government."

I'm not sure whether this will work, and the article goes on to suggest that it could adversely affect the U.S's image abroad if the West Bank is developed at the expense of Gaza and its residents. But right now, it seems like the only political reality, however these sorts of policies always have some sort of adverse affect, and it would probably do more to divide the Palestinians even more than they are now. In the West Bank now, Fatah militants are showing their force in the streets, and you can only wonder how much longer it will be until factional fighting resumes.

On a related note, the U.S financed arms and vehicles delivered by Egypt and Jordan to Abbas's Fatah forces are all in the hands of Hamas now.

Hundreds are leaving Gaza after Hamas' 'coup': "I will not live in a Hamas-run state"

Given the fact that Hamas now patrols near the Gaza-Egypt border, will Egypt move to increase border security to stop weapons smuggling?

Hamas is now promising to secure the release of kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston, which most people see as a good will gesture to the outside world.

Egypt says it opposes the Hamas takeover because it "lacks legitimacy"; so they notice it in other countries but not in their own?

Pictures of Fatah Gunmen storming the West Bank parliament here.

Unfortunately, this summer may become much more violent in the Middle East.

AddMe - Search Engine Optimization