During a Sept. 20 meeting, the Quartet - officials from the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States - discussed a Hamas takeover of the PA. Officials said the Quartet, which plans to allocate $3 billion to the PA over the next three years, concluded that the international community could not prevent such a prospect.
It's interesting that following that meeting, Secretary of State Rice said:
SECRETARY RICE: This is going to be a Palestinian process and I think we have to give the Palestinians some room for the evolution of their political process. (I wrote in another post my impressions of Rice's overall comments)
I imagine that the evolution that will take place will be the replacement of a group of terrorists that pays occasional lip service to a relationship to the US by one that offers no such illusion.
But that won't stop the State Department.
Of course, US concerns about Hamas go beyond concerns just about Israel:
The prospect of a Hamas takeover of a Western-funded PA has alarmed Congress. Members of the House subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, who have been receiving frequent closed-door briefings on the decline of the PA, warned that Hamas could eventually use Western funding and weapons to fight the United States.
And then of course there is the sticking point that if Hamas were to be in control, the US would be unable to deal with them:
Under U.S. law, Washington would be unable to deal with any foreign government controlled by groups deemed by the State Department to be terrorists.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been designated terrorist organizations, and the former intends to run in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006.
"Hamas has already been in government in the Palestinian Authority," [Assistant Secretary of State David ] Welch said. "Under American law, we can't deal with them. I don't see that law changing after January."
The closing of the article, though, is problematic:
Still, neither Congress nor the administration plans to offer an alternative to the current PA leadership. Officials and congressional sources said that despite growing PA instability, the United States did not have any near-term alternative to Abbas.
"Let's be honest," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee. "On its good day, the Palestinian Authority is rife with corruption and riddled with political hacks and thugs. It is never one news cycle away from political emasculation. Yet, this is the horse we're betting on. And truth be told, it's the right bet. There's no one else to bet on."
There was a time not so long ago that the US policy was a hands-off, wait-and-see policy, one that was roundly criticized by the world leaders even while it contributed to the growing insignificance of Arafat.
But by giving in to the pressure and becoming more involved and promoting the idea of elections which produced Abu Mazen, the door was opened for Hamas. Maybe not so different than the error Israel made in opening the door that led to Arafat's gaining control (and according to Sidney Zion led to the loss of Gaza).
Rather than claiming that Abbas was the best bet around, perhaps it would have been wiser to just stay away from the racetrack.
The criticism that democracy cannot be introduced into Iraq may or may not be valid, but it surely applies to the Palestinian Arabs, who have never had a country--and now is hardly the time to make one up for them.
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