How the West Abandoned Palestinian Democracy

By Terry Lacey – Jakarta

There is a strange post war silence about Gaza and Palestine in Indonesia as if the activists and political leaders that got involved have discovered a can of worms.

The conflicts and complexity of the political divisions between Palestinians have astounded Indonesians who learned about them as a result of the recent conflict. 

Activists have hunted through web sites to try and understand what happened between Fatah and Hamas that led to civil war and then the Israeli war against Gaza.

The recent chronology on the BBC web site summed it up. In January 2006 Hamas won Palestinian general elections. In March the Hamas Government was sworn in. Israel, the US and EU immediately suspended all links with it. 

The West abandoned Palestinian democracy, failed to help lead the new democratic government towards dialogue and moderation and instead led by boycott and blockade towards a Palestinian civil war and then a war between Israel and Gaza. 

The Palestinian split cannot be blamed only on Palestinian politics. It was engineered by Israel and the West and they are partly to blame for its consequences. 

In February-March 2007 Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a new coalition to try to end growing factional warfare amidst a tightening Israeli and Western boycott and blockade.

It becomes easier to understand how the Palestinian unity government was dissolved and a nominated West Bank government installed, as Palestinian faction fighting increased.

Then Hamas seized back by force in Gaza that which it had already won by democratic vote. The West took sides and backed the Presidential militia and hoped it would win, but it did not. 

Think what would have happened if the British had ignored the electoral successes of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and instead set up a Northern Ireland “moderate government” ignoring election results and excluding Sinn Fein. The war with the IRA would have gone on, and could have spread to England and Scotland.

The Israelis should take note of this parallel. For they and the West have helped to destabilize the West Bank through these maneuvers and the Gaza war. 

Now the talks in Egypt are needed not only to try to promote Palestinian national reconciliation but to try and save the West Bank cities from a similar fate to Gaza.

If that happens the pressure falls on Jordan and on Egypt, and violence could spread to Israeli cities and towns with Arab populations. 

The real aim of the talks in Egypt is not to secure the twin state, but to save the West Bank from political implosion, while the Palestinian Presidency is severely weakened, and to end the Gaza blockade to prevent another war with Israel.

The Gaza construction program is the sugar on the lollipop, a moral imperative for those who helped cause this war, and a lever to try to bring about changes another way. It should also be to make up for this shameful sequence of events and their possible consequences.

Now Indonesians read in the Jakarta Globe, from Associated Press, (26.02.09) that Hamas believes the West Bank Fatah Abbas government ran a spy ring in Gaza to feed targeting information to the Israelis during the war, while Fatah accused Hamas of killing and wounding Fatah activists in Gaza under cover of the war.

The awful truth is gradually reconstructed for us after waves of silence and obfuscation.

The democratically elected Hamas government was brought down by a coup d ètat backed by Israel, the West and Fatah and now we should all smile and support national reconciliation. The coup failed, the blockade failed, the policy to bring down Hamas failed. It is now more powerful than it was before.

These are not the conditions in which President Obama can hope to bring unwilling parties together to discuss a twin state solution, when both Palestinian and Israeli voters have voted against any rapid final peace talks towards a twin state.

– Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.

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