Give Hudna a Chance: Will the U.S. and Israel Heed or Ignore the Hamas Proposal for a Truce with Fatah?

By Wall, James M. | The Christian Century, November 28, 2006 | Go to article overview

Give Hudna a Chance: Will the U.S. and Israel Heed or Ignore the Hamas Proposal for a Truce with Fatah?


Wall, James M., The Christian Century


ELECTION SEASON 2006 is over, and we can say goodbye to the negative media ads and stories. Opposing sides fought one another with reckless abandon. Yet they never once thought of turning their struggle into a civil war. So why is the Bush administration claiming that it's pushing for democracy in the Middle East while it is taking steps that encourage a civil war between Hamas and Fatah?

In their January 2006 elections, the Palestinians emerged as a potential democracy--limited, to be sure, by the absence of sovereignty and by uncertain borders and a destitute economy under Israeli control. Hamas won the internationally monitored election. There was just one problem. As far as Israel and the United States were concerned, Palestinian voters chose the wrong party.

After a little international arm-twisting, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations agreed with the U.S., the fourth member of this quartet, that a democratic election that "went wrong" could not stand. Like a bunch of bankers foreclosing on farms during the Great Depression, the quartet and Israel cut off funds to the new government.

This is not the way democracy is supposed to work. Which raises the question: Do the U.S. and Israel really want to create indigenous democracies in the Middle East? Or do they want to create a "Syriana"--a term from the 2005 movie of that name that suggests a U.S. goal of re-creating an ancient Syria (made up of present-day Israel/ Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) as an "Americana," or U.S. empire? If this is not the goal of the U.S. and Israel (with acquiescence from other members of the quartet), why has so little been done to encourage a peaceful accord between Hamas and Fatah, the opposing parties struggling to find their footing in the fiedging Palestinian democracy?

The Palestinian population is suffering from a severe food shortage. Border blockades interrupt food distribution, leaving food to rot in the fields or to be tossed into the sea. Medical and educational facilities are severely undermined by the financial boycott. The Gaza Strip is virtually closed off. Salaries for 170,000 Palestinian Authority employees have been paid in only two out of the past seven months.

Under pressure from the financial blockade, Hamas sent word to President Mahmoud Abbas that it would sacrifice some of the power it gained in a democratic election to form a unity government. But the U.S. and Israel do not act as if they favor peaceful negotiations. …

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