Anatomy of a Monumental Fiasco

The scene was set for the Hamas terrorists’ takeover of Palestinian government Wednesday, Jan 25, by American and Israeli leaders’ acquiescence to being led by the nose by certain Fatah leaders.

Somehow, these plausible Palestinians sold a bill of goods to President George W. Bush, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon – now in a deep coma in hospital – and his successor, interim prime minister Ehud Olmert.

They explained that the only way out of the chaos in the Palestinian areas and of restarting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was a new election to the Palestinian legislative council. They promised the poll would be the broom in the hands of Mahmoud Abbas ( Abu Mazen) for sweeping away Fatah dead wood and installing in its stead young, corrupt-free deputies and officials, loyal to him and amenable to negotiations with Israel under the American aegis.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Palestinian sources disclose that Abu Mazen and his sidekick Mohammed Dahlan did not find it too hard to persuade the Bush administration, which believes fervently that the electoral process is the panacea for every possible ill.

First, they sold the plan to the American military coordinator, Gen. William Ward, with whom they had developed a close friendship. He helped them pass the idea on to Rice who submitted it to the Oval Office.

Further traction for the project was provided by a Fatah group close to Marwan Barghouti, the Tanzim leader jailed for five life terms for orchestrating the murder of Israelis in terrorist attacks. Abu Mazen placed Barghouti at the top of the Fatah slate.

The Barghouti fan club was led by smooth-talking Kadoura Fares, Khatem Abdel Kader, Ibrahim Ranan and pollster Khalil Shekaki, as well Palestinian academics who teach in American institutions.

They formed a pro-election lobby, which met the secretary of state and members of the US national security council and promised them that a poll was the best and shortest way to attaining Washington’s objectives. They were supported by Shekaki’s polls which guaranteed a Fatah victory.

Their message was confirmed by White House envoys on regular visits to the region, undersecretary of state David Welch, deputy head of the national security council Elliott Abrams, Robert Danin and Dennis Ross.


Washington loves an election


These high-powered US emissaries assured Washington that the project had the enthusiastic support of the CIA and the British secret service MI6.

This magic formula would also heal the anarchy and lawlessness gripping Palestinian areas, it was confidently believed. The rising strength of the bomb-wielding Hamas was pooh-poohed; at most the terrorists could expect a 25-30% share of the vote. A victorious, rejuvenated Fatah would have no difficulty in dealing with Hamas.

Gloomy prophecies of a Hamas victory were published here and there, mostly from Israeli intelligence sources, but were brushed aside as attempts to discredit Ariel Sharon’s policies or the fantasies of right wing extremists.

In this way, the Bush administration was able to persuade itself that it was the Palestinians’ turn, after the elections in Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Lebanon, to take the highway to “freedom and democracy.” From then on, that decision became set in stone in the minds of Bush and Rice and nothing on earth could shake it.

And so it happened that, whereas President Bush had set democracy in motion in the Middle East to rescue the man in the street from the clutches of extremist, antidemocratic Islamic movements, that same democracy served the Hamas for placing Palestinian government in the hands of a branch of the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

Almost every Middle East ruler familiar with the sinister labyrinth of the Brotherhood has fought tooth and nail to keep it out of government – even by the most brutal means. Under heavy American pressure, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak let the Muslim Brotherhood run for election through independents, but he did not scruple to use violence to keep its parliamentary representation down to a manageable one-fifth.

In January 2006, Washington pointed the same gun at the heads of the Israeli government, forcing Ehud Olmert to let Hamas run in the Palestinian elections – even though the United States has listed the suicidal jihadist organization as a terrorist organization and dealing with it violates American law. The American squeeze against Israel was relentless, more so than against Cairo, because its determination had been shaped by a practiced Fatah campaign to distort Washington’s perception of the facts.

Two days before the vote, someone in Washington must have smelled a rat. The realization dawned belatedly that the Fatah was not heading for a clear victory, after all, but fighting for its life with no assurance of winning. At that point, millions of American dollars were pumped to Fatah leaders and Abu Mazen, who spent the money buying off the independents who were cutting into the shrinking Fatah voter base.

By then it was too late. Hamas easily outpaced American funding with a cash flow from its radical sponsors in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

Thursday morning, Jan 26, America, Israel and Abu Mazen woke up with a start to the stunning discovery that the second largest terrorist movement in the Middle East after the Hizballah had captured Palestinian rule by the ballot box, seizing 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian legislative council.

The shock was quickly compounded by statements issued by Hamas leaders.

True to their tenets, they declared that negotiations were not on their agenda, any more than recognition of Israel or renouncing armed conflict.


Hamas absorbs a 70,000-strong Palestinian army


The entire roadmap edifice, co-sponsored as a result of Bush’s efforts, by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, was shot down by Hamas in a few brief words. In a twinkling, the Palestinian Authority, painstakingly created and fostered mainly by the United States as the instrument of Palestinian governance and vehicle for peacemaking with Israel, had passed to the masters of jihad who were sworn to destroy Israel.

Even worse, 70,000 Palestinian security officers, whose equipment and weapons were paid for by the United States, Britain and other European governments, had meanwhile defected to Hamas and were absorbed in its militia.

Somehow, this massive defection went unnoticed by the foreign envoys and agents frequenting the Palestinian areas, although it was the first time in the five-year global war on terror that an army of this size, complete with equipment, had passed without a shot fired to the command of a terrorist organization, one moreover which is tight with Tehran and the Lebanese Hizballah.

Initial analysis of polling results showed that at least 35% of these defectors had cast their votes for Hamas.

The upheaval struck Israel and its politicians dumb. Kadima, in particular, the party founded by Ariel Sharon and now led by Ehud Olmert, favorite of the polls and closely aligned with Washington, was bereft of its central policy theme weeks after losing its leader.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al Zahar took advantage of the thunderous silence in Jerusalem to lay down his game rules for the United States and Israel:

1. Washington must start talking to Hamas as the ruling force in the Palestinian Authority.

2. Hamas pledges to preserve the “independence of arms” of all armed (terrorist) groups.

3. No further concessions to Israel. The terror campaign would go on until Israel had withdrawn from all “occupied Palestinian territory.”

4. An offer to sign a long-term armistice with Israel under which the Palestinians reserved the freedom to decide on violations when they saw fit.

The Hamas conditions strongly reflect the truce terms laid down by Osama bin Laden in the audiotape he released Jan. 19: if the Americans withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and pass rule over to Al Qaeda, bin Laden guarantees no more attacks in America.

Al Zahar has gone into similar dictatorial mode from Gaza.

It might have been possible to arrest the Hamas revolution if someone had moved fast enough on Thursday to order the security forces still controlled by the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah to mount a coup. But the shock in Ramallah, Washington and Jerusalem was so tremendous that no one was capable of issuing the appropriate order. And, anyway, regardless of the many billions of dollars the West led by the US had poured out to create a Palestinian security force, not a single cohesive unit existed capable of carrying out the mission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email