Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

January 19, 2010

The inter-Palestinian divide & U.S. foreign policy

Filed under: Discourse in America,Hamas,Washington's diplomacy — Kimberly Doyle @ 5:07 pm

Dr. Nathan Brown, author of the recent study Palestine: The Schism Deepens, recently headlined a discussion of the inter-Palestinian divide and US foreign policy toward it at the Washington, DC-based Palestine Center.

Brown, who’s a professor of US foreign policy in the Middle East at George Washington University, started by discussing the divide between the West Bank and Gaza.  He emphasized the need to accept the realities on the ground, arguing that it is important to recognize the political legitimacy of Hamas and the impossibility of elections in the near future.  He then addressed US foreign policy towards the Fateh-Hamas split, arguing the Obama’s policies are no more than a continuation of Bush’s policy of ‘West Bank first’.  Obama has continued to squeeze Gaza and strengthen the PA in the West Bank, hoping that Gaza’s people will follow the West Bank ‘example’ and move away from Hamas.

Brown looked at some possible future scenarios regarding the Fateh-Hamas split.  He said that two different “happy endings” have been talked of; but he considers both unlikely. The first is that elections will fix the problem. The second is that diplomatic negotiations with the PA will reopen the peace process and make Hamas less relevant. But elections, according to Brown, are impossible until the split is resolved.  As for re-energized peace negotiations, he considers them both unlikely to happen, and unlikely to be accepted by all parties. Instead, he argues that the current policy is likely to lead to a political stalemate, or another war in Gaza.

Brown concluded with a discussion of alternatives to the current policy. He suggested using incentives, like lifting the siege on Gaza and a Shalit deal, to encourage negotiations between Hamas and Israel. Then interim agreements, involving Hamas, could be used to create a more sustainable situation, moving slowly towards reconciliation, and  eventually elections.

Brown’s rather grim forecast on the possibilities of reconciliation and any kind of peace deal left me, and most of the audience, frustrated and discouraged. Basically, he does not foresee any change in US policy in the near future. And without any change or any incentives, it is highly unlikely that any reconciliation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will occur… And without such a reconciliation, there is little chance of successful peace negotiations and little chance that the lives of ordinary Palestinians will improve.



  1. I enjoyed reading Dr Brown’s study; thanks for linking to it. I still don’t understand why elections should be impossible, though. There’s plenty of precedent for holding elections even when part of the electorate is cut off from participation.

    Comment by Joe in Australia — January 20, 2010 @ 6:19 am | Reply

  2. Professor Nathan Brown well analysed the Feth-Hamas split but he didn’t illustrate the US foreign policy setbacks under Obama administration. I think the real dhallenge for Obama is how to deal with Israel as an asset or a burden to the American tax payer that’s the question that should be answered.


    Comment by Abdelhafid Dib — January 20, 2010 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  3. As long as Israel deems it in their interest to maintain and foment the division between the Palestinians, and the US, as usual, toadys to Likud, there is very little chance of reconciliation. The US and Israel have worked very hard to undermine and destroy democracy in Palestine. Europe could assert itself on behalf of human rights, but with the continuing German guilt trip making them also bow before TelAviv, that seems unlikely. The one really interesting new player in the area is Turkey. Hamas might accede to a Turkish brokered reconciliation deal to create a new ally and stick its finger in Egypt’s eye.
    As far as peace in the region is concerned, I agree that that simply will not happen. Israel has absolutely no interest in anything other than a “peace process” which goes nowhere, but provides a fig leaf which the US and Europe can claim gives respectability to their support of the occupation and the merciless blockade. Israelis have decided that the status quo is better than any deal that could be struck. Supported with continued US pressure, Israel is gradually achieving some degree of respectability and acceptance even in the middle east. (Although the Gaza invasion has been a major setback). They see no reason to give up anything. Obama has demonstrated his complete lack of spine and they know they now have him. He is not W, but he is the next best thing.

    Comment by Jack — January 20, 2010 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

  4. There is an interesting column in Haaretz today pointing out that the Democrats loss of the Mass senate was a big win for Netanyahu.
    The article also points out how cleverly Netanyahu has manipulated Obama.

    Comment by Jack — January 20, 2010 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  5. I’m used to reading in the comments how Israel is blamed for everything, but this statement takes it to new heights; “As long as Israel deems it in their interest to maintain and foment the division between the Palestinians”. Are Palestinians really so incapable that they’re like little puppets on a string?

    And if that’s the case then this second statement sounds just about right “Israelis have decided that the status quo is better than any deal that could be struck” because you can’t know who might be controlling that string.

    Comment by David — January 21, 2010 @ 6:39 am | Reply

  6. Yes, David, it is very difficult indeed for Palestinians to organise politically. When they do so they are targetted by Israeli government assassins.
    Or detained and tortured. Or, if they fall foul of Mr Abbas, the Palestinian Security Police, trained and vetted by the Israelis and the Americans, will come after them.
    One wonders whether you blame the Jews in eastern europe for the masterful way in which the nazis manipulated them, drove them from their homes and then killed them.
    The wonder is that the Palestinian people have held out: according to the likud terrorist time tables, they were expected to have conceded defeat, given up their ancestral lands and disappeared years ago. Instead they are still here, house keys, as it were, in hand, ready to return home when justice is done, as, their faith tells them, it must be.

    Comment by bevin — January 21, 2010 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  7. I have one question here for long time, each time pro-Israelis people claims that Palestinians like to kill Jews and Israelis, ok, but how many Israeli leaders /war criminals targeted by Palestinians?

    can any one give one indecent that Palestinians targeted assassins to killed those Israeli criminals who killing them every day

    Comment by Salah — January 22, 2010 @ 5:54 am | Reply

  8. Former Hamas Finance Minister speaks on the split, elections, etc.. http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50032

    Comment by Ben — January 24, 2010 @ 10:08 am | Reply

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