In truth, American Palestinian policy went bankrupt long ago, with the flop of the August 2000 US-Palestinian-Israeli summit convened at Camp David by President Bill Clinton. Yasser Arafat rejected Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak package of broad concessions for peace and went straight back home to launch his suicide terror war against Israel. President George W. Bush, who came next, was the first American president to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state. But since then, he has been forced to stick patch after patch on the basic garment to make his Palestinian blueprint fit into the big picture of US Middle East strategy.
Now there is nowhere else to stick any more patches.
The Palestinian Authority first mortally wounded by the January election of the terrorist organization Hamas, is now dead in the water, after Israel rounded up 87 Hamas office-holders and lawmakers. Most of the political and municipal bodies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are non-functional. But the worst setback of all to Washington’s plans is the phased eclipse of its men in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas, Muhammed Dahlan and Kadoura Fares, as figures of influence on the Palestinian scene.
The coup de grace was the Gaza crisis following the June 25 Hamas attack on an army post and abduction of an Israeli soldier, and the mass arrest of Hamas’s political leaders on the West Bank. The Hamas ministers still at large in Gaza led by PM Ismail Haniyeh, have all gone into hiding.
The only Palestinian figure with a vestige of credibility is the Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who sits in an Israeli jail after being convicted of orchestrating multiple terrorist murders.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not been the most pressing item on the Bush agenda for some time, but that was only as long as it sputtered feebly. This week, the flames of war shot up and threatened to ignite Syria too. A strong sense of urgency was suddenly injected into Washington’s perception of the conflict, for the following reasons:
One, the Israel-Palestinian clash threatens to spread outward to other parts of the Middle East.
Two, the pro-US regimes of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon could find themselves engulfed by Palestinian demonstrations of solidarity with their brethren violent enough to destabilize their governments.
Three, events in Gaza and the West Bank are a boon for Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East, especially the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda.
Four, forcing elected Hamas ministers and lawmakers to go underground and placing one third of their ruling establishment in jail is an affront to the democratic principles and plans which President Bush espouses for the region.
Five, the events of this week have strengthened the ties binding Hamas to Tehran, Damascus and the Shiite Hizballah of Lebanon.
Six, the deeper the two Palestinian territories sink into anarchy, the easier the active al Qaeda elements already planted in Palestinian terrorist groups – especially the Popular Resistance Committees – will find it to draw trained and armed Palestinian gunmen into their ranks. Al Qaeda will have accomplished its ambition of a Mediterranean base. Its consolidation on the West Bank will present a direct threat to Jordan and the Hashemite dynasty, which is already menaced from Iraq to the east and Syria to the north.