The Bush Plan Vs the Algerian Formula to Contest Hamas
Through all the inexorable stages of Hamas’ rise to power in the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert was struck with inertia.
The Palestinian Islamic terrorist organization was allowed to run for election, emerge as victor, spurn demands to recognize Israel or disarm, yet take its seat in the new Palestinian legislative council and, Saturday, Feb. 18, reject Abu Mazen’s modest demand to accept international agreements with Israel.
Now the Hamas is on the threshold of forming a government, impervious to international expressions of disapproval or threats. And, finally, Sunday, Feb. 19, Olmert put a package of steps for action before the Israeli cabinet. His spokesmen say he had to resolve an argument between national defense leaders, who want radical action to hamstring Hamas, and the foreign ministry, which favors a gradualist, humanitarian approach so as not to antagonize the “international community.”
The fact is that, at this late stage, this argument is no more relevant than Olmert’s rhetoric with regard to the real steps he and foreign minister Tzipi Livni have approved. Those steps were not choreographed in Jerusalem but in Washington.
debkafile‘s Washington sources therefore cut straight to the chase to examine in general outline the plan the Bush administration has compiled for curtailing the Hamas regime, including the role assigned Israel.
1. To starve the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority of funding.
2. Foreign aid will be channeled directly to the Palestinian population through international organizations.
3. The Gaza Strip will be cut off from the West Bank so as to isolate the main body of the Hamas leadership and diminish its influence on the seat of government in Ramallah.
4. Careful orchestration of Abu Mazen’s actions as chairman of the Palestinian Authority to ascertain that he uses the next four to six months to restore and consolidate his own defeated Fatah.
5. He will then trump up a constitutional crisis, sack the Hamas government and dissolve the 132-member legislative council along with the 74-member majority Hamas gained in January, and call a snap general election.
6. This time, unlike in January, the United States will apply all its intelligence and financial might to make sure Hamas does not win again.
7. The Olmert government will act in conjunction with the steps laid out in the Bush administration’s plan of action.
debkafile‘s Palestinian experts see little chance of this blueprint actually succeeding for three main reasons:
A. Reliance on Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party for practical steps has never worked – witness the mayhem in the Gaza Strip, the arms smuggling, the failure to rein in terrorists. Nonetheless, for twelve years, Washington has pinned its Palestinian policy on the man in charge, be he Yasser Arafat or Abu Mazen – a course that promoted anti-Israel violence rather than peace.
B. Hamas leaders have known about the Washington-Jerusalem scenario for at least two weeks – long enough for a head start for moves with their Arab and Muslim allies to balk the American plan. The Palestinian Islamic terrorist group belongs to and enjoys the support of the vast, powerful Muslim Brotherhood network spread out across the Middle East. In Egypt, the Bush administration is pushing for local elections on schedule – and a certain victory for the Muslim radicals with consequent shocks for the Mubarak regime. How will the US government manage the acrobatic contortions of supporting a Muslim Brotherhood victory in one part of the region and combating the same group in the next-door state?
C. Hamas can easily circumvent the plan to starve its administration of finances. Palestinian employees staff all the international organizations operating in Palestinian areas; these locals will not risk their lives by holding back incoming funds from the ruling Hamas. And personnel associated with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah will be told to hand the cash over – after taking their cut.
So where does this leave Israel?
Face to face with a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist power, which makes no bones about seeking the Jewish state’s extinction – if not today, then tomorrow. This situation cries out for bold, independent enterprise to bring the menace to heel before it is too late. Such an initiative may run parallel to the American master-plan, but Israel cannot afford to stand by for another American fiasco like the Palestinian election, which opened the door wide to Hamas.
debkafile‘s political sources see the advantage of a course modeled on the Algerian formula.
In the early 1990s, the Algerian army stepped in to prevent violent Muslim extremists from assuming power after their election win. Applied to the Palestinian arena, Israel, preferably in conjunction with the Americans, would instigate and orchestrate a Palestinian military coup d’etat in the West Bank, which would leave Hamas government isolated and hanging out to dry in the Gaza Strip.
This course would make use of current realities.
Control of the Gaza Strip passed to the Hamas anyway after Israel relinquished the territory six months ago; its re-conquest would necessitate turning the clock back at the cost of many lives.
On the West Bank, Israel has the means and connections to ensure the success of a coup and prevent the West Bank from deteriorating into a second Gaza Strip.
The main problem facing a bold step of this nature is the leadership crisis besetting Israeli politics in the volatile interregnum between Ariel Sharon’s disappearance and the March 28 general election. It is hard to see Ehud Olmert’s setup, or any of his rivals, exercising the vision, courage or independence of mind for an inventive strategy to pre-empt the Hamas menace.