Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How to Deal with a Coup d'Etat by an Elected Government? Wonders Robert Fisk

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How to Deal with a Coup d'Etat by an Elected Government? Wonders Robert Fisk

Article excerpt

THE PROMISE OF aid by the European Union and Washington for the new Palestinian Authority government, installed when Mahmoud Abbas sacked the elected Hamas-led government after its followers seized Gaza, was seen among sections of the European media as offering a glimmer of hope.

Agence France Presse reported on June 18 that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced that the 27-nation bloc-the Palestinians' largest donor-would provide direct funds to the new government and was seeking a way to send aid to impoverished Gaza.

"The aid will be crucial to the fragile emergency government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas," said Germany's Deutsche Welle radio the same day.

However, Christoph Schult of Germany's Spiegel was less optimistic the move would improve things. "The division of the Palestinian territories into a "Hamastan" on the Mediterranean and a "Fatahstan" on the West Bank of the River Jordan puts an end, for now, to the dream of an independent Palestinian state," he wrote in the June 18 edition.

"Hamas wants to rule the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip alone, a prospect that alarms neighboring Arab states," Schult continued. "The takeover in Gaza will send rumbles throughout the Middle East. Hamas has links to radical groups in other countries, particularly Egypt," he explained. "Jerusalem fears not just a new terror offensive but also growing Iranian influence in the Gaza Strip: Tehran already pays for Hamas's weapons today.

"Ironically," he concluded, "the crisis may lead to something Israel has refused for the year and a half since Hamas won power at the polls-diplomacy....Even the [Israeli] government in Jerusalem realizes that it will have to open Gaza's borders as soon as starvation becomes a real possibility," Schult concluded.

Writer and peace activist Samir El-Youssef argued in The Guardian the same day that Fatah must concede defeat and learn to become an effective democratic opposition. "Hamas is the actual power in Gaza now," he wrote. "The Palestinian president's response, dissolving the government of unity, declaring a state of emergency and then appointing a new government from which Hamas is totally excluded is hopeless and it would lead to nothing but destroying Palestinian democracy and further bloodshed. Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections of 2006 and it's about time that Abbas and the Fatah leadership admit defeat and hand over power-government as much as foreign policy, security forces and civil services-to the elected party," El-Youssef continued. "It was originally their failure to do so which has led to the current situation. Instead of dragging Palestinian society into protracted civil war, Abbas must leave office and most urgently work to re-create Fatah as a national opposition party and an alternative governing body to the inexperienced and unsure Hamas."

"How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are," Robert Fisk noted sarcastically in the June 16 edition of The Independent. "First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party-Hamas-and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas," Fisk marveled. "Today 'Palestine'-and let's keep those quotation marks in place-has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

"Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk?" Fisk asked. "Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognize Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement." Fisk concluded by asking: "How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?"

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