Has Hamas Left Iran's Orbit?

- Lose the gun son -

A few weeks ago the US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said the following: “Iran is basically down to just two principal remaining allies — the Assad clique in Syria and Hezbollah”

It was telling that Hamas was not on that list. There was talk at the time that Hamas has left the Mullahs and was now in the orbit of influence of post-revolutionary Egypt. Today we are starting to witness some of the repercussions of that break, as we are hearing noises about Hamas potentially letting go of armed resistance altogether and switching to non-violent resistance against Israel.

If this is true, it’s huge for two reasons:

  • It would be the first time an Arab resistance group willfully abandons violence because it believes that non violence is a more effective way to restore rights. That should be attributed to the success of the revolutions in places like Tunisia.
  • It would deprive the Hezbollah-Assad-Iran axis of the only Sunni ally they had, which served as very important PR talking point whenever they were accused of being a “Shiaa Crescent”.
If Hamas is indeed renouncing violence, Israel would be crazy if it did not reward this switch in a meaningful way, by making tangible concessions towards peace with Palestine. If the Hebrew state wanted to send the message that violence doesn’t pay, this would be the best opportunity to do so.

Update: Read Hussein Ibish’s more subtle and informed take on Hamas’ realignment

Also: What stands in the way of Palestinian non-violence ?

The Islamists are Legitimate Whether the West / Liberals Like Them or Not

Rami Khouri makes an argument: Legitimacy comes from the ballot boxes, not from policies (real or perceived), no matter how distasteful those policies appear to the west or liberals. He even drove his point further by bringing up the American republican primaries:

Comical, even farcical, characters like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Donald Trump and others of their amusing ilk are subjected to the sole test of legitimate incumbency – which is how politics should work. They may be dangerous demagogues or incompetent provincial clowns, or both in some cases; but that is all overlooked if they gain votes.

A better example would be Israel. The peace process broke down again and again, but it is never because of Netenyahu’s intransigence, it’s always –we are told– because he wants to preserve his political alliance with the ultra-orthodox parties (the equivalents of the Salafists in Egypt). The world is supposed to understand that because it’s how democracies work. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I’m not a big fan of Khouri’s fixation on the western history of colonialism and imperialism, but his latest article makes a solid point.

Bad Excuse

The Economist blasts the main reason pro-Israelis countries are giving for opposing the creation of a Palestinian state in the UN:

The argument that the Palestinians must resume negotiations before getting statehood is specious. Why on earth should a change in status at the UN stop people talking?

Why on earth? Simple: They don’t live on earth, they live in Bizarro world.

"Wrong Side of History"

Australia’s former foreign minister Gareth Evans:

It is difficult to imagine Israel’s leadership changing course at this stage, and it is probably too late for the Obama administration to escape from the domestic political vice in which it seems pinned on this issue. But being on the wrong side of history is never a comfortable position. And that is exactly where the US, Israel, and its closest friends – including my own country, Australia – will be if they resist the tide of international sentiment in favor of moving now to recognize Palestinian statehood.

History will indeed be the best judge..

What Does the US Get in Return for 2.5 $Billion Dollar Aid to Israel?

Arthur Herman argues that in fact the US is getting a pretty good deal for “sticking its neck out to help Israel”. In short, here is what America gets according to Herman:

  • A Country that espouses liberal democracy in a region full of dictators (Exibit A: Israel’s strong support for the Arab Spring and people power)
  • A resource of top-notch spies and and anti-terrorism experts (Why is this America’s business in the first place? The only reason the US got in the sight of “terrorists” is because of its unconditional support for Israel)
  • Someone that does America’s dirty work in the region, like bombing nuclear plants. (Does that mean that America has to create an Israel in each troubled corner of the world?)

Here’s the most sophisticated response I can come up with: Bullshit!

What Will a US Veto Against Palestinian Statehood Tell Us About Present-day America

Robert Fisk:

So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become […] that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

This article is so full of nuggets that I struggled to decide which paragraph to quote. You should read the whole thing.

On Palestine, the American People is not Stupid

Yesterday I read Thomas Friedman’s New York Times article which was critical of “the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent government in Israel’s history”. Then I decided to read the comments on that article. As usual, I sorted the comments by “most recommended by the readers”. I often do that to get the general pulse of the readers’ reception of an article.

The thing that struck me most is that not one -not one!- of the top twenty comments was supportive of Israel. The comments thread had the intensity of an online consumer forum where everyone is agreeing with everyone that the product they all bought is a ripoff. The product, in this case, being America’s policy of unconditional support for Israel.

Here’s the comment that got the most votes. It was written by Tom in Chicago:

Israel is no friend to the United States. It is our unqualified support of them that has garnered nothing but justifiable hatred and disgust from a very large chunk of the world’s population. It exposes our double-standards toward freedom and justice and makes hypocrites of us all. I’m sick of having my hard-earned tax dollars be sent to Israel so they can slaughter children and steal land that everyone, including the US government, agrees isn’t theirs. Enough is enough!

It is simply wrong to say –as many do– that the American population is clueless vis a vis the injustice done in their name. Of course, we’re talking here of an informed minority of the general voting population of the U.S., but this doesn’t make the “revolt” any less interesting..

10 Reasons Why Europe Should Vote "Yes" For Palestinian Bid in UN

Martti Ahtisaari and Javier Solana:

As ever, the biggest challenge facing the E.U.’s 27 member states is presenting a unified front. There are 10 compelling reasons for them to coalesce around a “yes” vote and keep the two-state approach to Middle East peace alive.

A good list, some items of which sound almost Machiavellian:

The U.S. is unable to vote “yes” for evident domestic reasons, but the E.U. 27 doing so would strengthen America’s hand when dealing with Israel

Do check the whole list. It provides an invaluable insight by two Europe insiders of EU foreign policy making.