Monday, August 13, 2007

How NOT To Deal With Hamas

The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has released a report criticizing the UK's policy towards Hamas and the Palestinians, stating that the refusal to deal with or talk to Hamas has been counter-productive. The all-party committee concludes that:

that the decision not to speak to Hamas in 2007 following the Mecca agreement has been counterproductive. We further conclude that a national unity Government could and should have been established much earlier than the spring of 2007. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government set out when it began to actively support the establishment of a national unity Government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
This is exactly the wrong solution. There is no possibility for a successful unity government between Hamas and Fatah, and given the civil war, it's hard to imagine why the committee feels it would have been better to create a unity government earlier (to be fair, the committee also wants the UK to end the political and economic isolation of Hamas, so it may be that it's thinking is that if economic conditions hadn't been so dire, things would have worked out differently).

As I have written on numerous occasions, the problem in the Palestinian territories is that neither side, nor the government in a general sense, possesses a monopoly of violence, which enables each side to undermine the other. There are only two ways to deal with this situation (assuming one wants to eventually reunite the West Bank with Gaza in an independent Palestinian homeland): support Fatah against Hamas, or support Hamas against Fatah. So long as the two groups maintain military/police power outside of the aegis of the government, there will no lasting peace and no political stability. Creating a unity government merely papers over this situation, but only until a divisive problem arises that splits the two parties. I don't have any intrinsic problems with Hamas ruling (although I would prefer it be Fatah); what is critical is that whichever group controls the government do so completely and totally.

5 comments:

Simmons said...

You just convinced me to change my position on this issue. You're right; creating a 'unity' government would be a temporary solution.

Matt Bondy said...

Professor:

I'd be very interested to know the history of the Jed Bartlet quote. I'm a big West Wing fan - have all the seasons on DVD.

The quote's not ringin' a bell.

Care to share the story?

Cheers,
M

PS: Good post on the legitimacy of war a few days. I had a similar discussion over at the Dominion Pages, catalysed by the same WAPO article.

Seth Weinberger said...

Matt: A friend of mine used to write for "The West Wing," and a few years ago she consulted with me on some plots (specifically, the one where the US shoots down the plane of some Arab general and Israel gets blamed). I gave her some advice on some technical aspects, and in return, my name got written in to an episode. Specifically, it was the "24 Hours in America" one; Seth Weinberger was a former head of OSHA who was cheating on his wife and got caught when his mistress went public, deeply distressing the president.

Matt Bondy said...

Well I don't know how to tell you this, Professor, but I think I'm gonna need a poster of you or something.

That's just awesome.

- Matt
lead blogger, 'Bartlet for America'

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