"The devastating consequences of the Quartet position have been well documented, including in UN Security Council briefings....The precipitous decline of the standard of living of Palestinians, particularly but by no means exclusively in Gaza, has been disastrous, both in humanitarian terms and in the perilous weakening of Palestinian institutions....The underpinnings for a future Palestinian state have been seriously undermined, and the capacity of the Palestinian security apparatus to establish and maintain law and order, to say nothing of putting an end to attacks against Israel, has diminished tremendously....Thus the steps taken by the International community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour Israel have had precisely the opposite effect".
Alvaro de Soto, "End of Mission Report", May 2007, in www.guardian.co.uk.
As I, and a good number of other individuals have observed and predicted, notwithstanding the International boycott of the Hamas-lead, Palestinian Authority (hereafter 'PA') government, in any open warfare between the Islamist Hamas and the old-line, Nationalist, and corrupt, Fatah, the former would emerge triumphant. Late last week, that is precisely what occurred, as Hamas was able to shatter the remnants of Fatah's armed infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, and, take control of the entire territory. PA President Abbas, has predictably (and not entirely without reason) dissolved the PA unity government, so carefully constructed earlier this year by Saudi Arabia, and instituted a new one, centered on the West Bank, where Fatah still maintains control.
According to the wires, the American & Israeli reaction to these events has been quite predictable: reculer pour le mieux sauter. In essence a repeat of the earlier tactics which have failed so spectacularly. Whereas previously, Fatah affiliated groups, were covertly (in actual fact no so 'covertly') shipped arms by the Americans, in the hopes of destroying Hamas militarily, the end result has been a complete Hamas victory in the Gaza Strip. With many of the self-same arms now being utilized by Hamas (for the background on the American sub rosa effort to arm Fatah and or other elements against Hamas, see Joshua Landis' always brilliant: www.Syriacomment.com). Now we are told that the Americans and the Israelis, intend to make the Fatah-lead government in the West Bank, a 'shining example' of peace and prosperity, to contrast with the poverty and continuing isolation of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. The fact that any Fatah regime, will be as corrupt and as ramshackled as previously, appears not to occur to either the Americans or the Israelis. Nor does the fact that in the absence of any real progress on both the ground (in terms of stopping the expansion of Israeli settlements) and diplomatically (negotiating a fair and definitive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), any PA regime will soon enough be lacking in legitimacy and hence tottering if not soon suffering a complete collapse (on the American and Israeli thinking about going forward, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Fatah in the Gaza Strip, see: Olmert's interview in the Sunday New York Times, in www.nytimes.com & also the Financial Times, in www.ft.com).
It is precisely to provide a proper background and analysis of the most recent debacle that has occurred for American Near Eastern policy (following in the many footsteps of those of Iraq, the Lebanon War of 2006, et cetera), that we present to our readership, the secret report, leaked to the London Guardian and to Reuters, by the ex-United Nations Near Eastern envoy, Alvaro de Soto. Written up as a coda to his two year's as the UN's representative to the 'Quartet' (USA,EU,Russia & UN) of powers which have fitfully and ineffectually attempted since 2002 to revive the mostly dormant Near Eastern peace process. In his fifty-three (53) page report, Soto lambast both the Quartet's efforts at peace-making, and the United Nations' involvement in the same, as unmitigated farces. Indeed, he quite (to my mind correctly) recommends that in view of the absence of any real progress or even the hint of the same, under current circumstances, that the United Nations should withdraw from the Quartet, de facto if not de jure. As he quite aptly puts it:
"The Middle East [Near East] has substituted the Hindu Kush of the XIX century as the contemporary 'Great Game'. Membership in the Quartet gives the UN the illusion of having a seat at the table where it is being played out. Alas, it isn't being played out there. The Quartet has become a side-show: because it is only partly about the Middle East [Near East], it isn't a very apt mechanism for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and other members don't necessarily use it for that purpose".
Even more damning though, is Soto's opinion of the Israelis, and their American allies:
"Israel has sought refuge in, and locked itself into, an essentially rejectionist stance with respect to dealing with the Palestinians, by insisting on preconditions which they know are unachievable. Experience has made me a sceptic of preconditions, which usually mask a reluctance to negotiate....Unfortunately, the International Community, through a policy hastily laid down, has gone along with Israeli rejectionism, making it very difficult to climb down even if Israel decided to do so....The tendency that exists among US policy-makers and even amongst the sturdiest of politicians to cower before any hint of Israeli displeasure, and to pander shamelessly before Israeli-linked audiences".
Finally, allow me to sign off, by quoting his wise words about the relative merits and demerits of Hamas and Fatah, ones which American policy-makers would do well to read closely and draw certain conclusions from:
"Israel and the US have tended to deal with Hamas as if it were an epiphenomene. It is a mistaken appraisal: Hamas is deep-rooted,, has struck many chords, including its contempt for the Oslo process, and is not likely to disappear. Erroneous treatment of Hamas could have repercussions far beyond the oPt (sic), because of its links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose millions of supporters Islam-wide might be led to conclude that peaceful and democratic means are not the way to go. Hamas is in effervescence and can potentially evolve in a pragmatic direction that would allow for a two-state solution-but only if handled right.
On the other hand, it is difficult to be sanguine about Fateh (sic). They seem to have lost their compass long before their rout in the January 2006 elections. Abu Mazen (aka President of the PA Abbas) does his level best to keep things on track and to rebuild the broad pre-existing Palestinian consensus in favour of Oslo by trying to lure in Hamas, but is is not clear that he has substantial support among his advisors, let alone the broader Fateh constituency which has been taken for granted for so long".