To: "Ron Spiers"
Subject: Bush's Latest Blunder: Israel, America & AIPAC
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 19:23:10 +0000
*Dear Friends and Colleagues:*
I thought you might be interested in reading George Soros's essay On
Israel, America and AIPAC <http://www.getresponse.com/t
which appears in the current issue of the /*New York Review of
Books*/, published today. Bush's Latest Blunder: America and Israel
Must Open the Door to Hamas <http://www.getresponse.com/t
a shorter version of the essay, is included below and appeared as an
op-ed in today's /*Financial Times*/.
In "Bush's Latest Blunder" Soros focuses on the administration's
refusal to deal with a Palestine unity government and the
implications for a lasting peace settlement. In the longer essay he
goes on to describe the role of AIPAC and its allies in stifling
public debate. Soros notes, as did Nick Kristoff in his */New York
Times/* column on Sunday, that the de! bate over Middle East policy
is more constrained in United States than in Israel itself--due in
part to AIPAC's influence and intimidation.
On behalf of George Soros
*Bush's Latest Blunder:*
America and Israel Must Open the Door to Hamas
administration is again committing a blunder in the Middle East by
supporting the Israeli government in its refusal to recognise a
Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. This precludes any
progress towards a peace settlement at a time when such progress
could help avert conflagration in the greater Middle East.
The US and Israel seek to deal only with Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian
Authority president. They hope new elections would deny Hamas the
majority it has in the Palestinian legislative council. This is a
hopeless strategy, because Hamas would boycott early elections and,
even if their outcome resulted in Hamas's exclusion from the
government, no peace agreement would hold without Hamas support.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is pursing a different path. In a February
summit in Mecca between Mr Abbas and the Hamas leader Khaled
Mashaal, the Saudi government worked out an agreement between Hamas
and Fatah, which have been clashing violently, to form a national
unity government. Hamas agreed "to respect international resolutions
and the agreements [with Israel] signed by the Palestinian
Liberation Organisation", including the Oslo accords. The Saudis
view this accord as the prelude to the offer of a peace settlement
with Israel, to be guaranteed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab
countries. But no progress is possible as long as the Bush
administration and Ehud Olmert's Israeli government refuse to
recognise a unity government that includes Hamas.
Many causes of the current impasse go back to the decision by Ariel
Sharon, former Israeli prime minister, to withdraw from the Gaza
Strip unilaterally, without negotiating with the then
Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. This contributed to Hamas's
electoral victory. Then Israel, with strong US backing, refused to
recognise the democratically elected Hamas government and withheld
payment of the millions in taxes collected by the Israelis on its
behalf. This caused economic hardship and undermined the
government's ability to function. But it did not reduce support for
Hamas among Palestinians and it reinforced the position of Islamic
and other extremists who oppose negotiations with Israel. The
situation deteriorated to the point where Palestine no longer had an
authority with which Israel could negotiate.
This is a blunder, because Hamas is not monolithic. Its inner
structure is little known to outsiders but, according to some
reports, it has a military wing, largely directed from Damascus and
beholden to its Syrian and Iranian sponsors, and a political wing
that is more responsive to the needs of the Palestinian population
that elected it. If Israel had accepted the results of the election,
that might have strengthened the more moderate political wing.
Unfortunately, the ideology of the "war on terror" does not permit
such subtle distinctions. Nevertheless, subsequent events provided
some grounds for believing that Hamas has been divided between its
No sooner had Hamas agreed to enter into a government of national
unity than the military wing engineered the kidnapping of an Israeli
soldier, which prevented such a government from being formed by
provoking a heavy-handed Israeli military response. Hizbollah used
the opportunity to stage an incursion from Lebanon, kidnapping more
Israeli soldiers. Despite a disproportionate response by Israel,
Hizbollah stood its ground, gaining the admiration of the Arab
masses, whether Sunni or Shia. It was this dangerous state of
affairs - including the breakdown of government in Palestine and
fighting between Fatah and Hamas - that prompted the Saudi initiative.
Defenders of the current policy argue that Israel cannot afford to
negotiate from a position of weakness. But Israel's position is
unlikely to improve as long as it pursues its current course.
Military escalation - not just an eye for an eye but roughly 10
Palestinian lives for every Israeli one - has reached its limit.
After the Israeli Defence Force's retaliation against Lebanon's road
system, airport and other infrastructure one must wonder what could
be the next step. Iran poses a more potent danger to Israel than
either Hamas or Hizbollah, which are Iran's clients. There is
growing danger of a regional conflagration in which Israel and the
US could be on the losing side. With Hizbollah's ability to
withstand the Israeli onslaught and the rise of Iran as a
prospective nuclear power, Israel's existence is more seriously
endangered than at any time since its birth.
Both Israel and the US seem frozen in their unwillingness to
negotiate with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas. The
sticking-point is Hamas's unwillingness to recognise the existence
of Israel, but that could be made a condition for an eventual
settlement rather than a precondition for negotiations.
Demonstrating military superiority is not sufficient as a policy for
dealing with the Palestinian problem. There is now the chance of a
political solution with Hamas brought on board by Saudi Arabia. It
would be tragic to miss out on that prospect because the Bush
administration is mired in the ideology of the war on terror.
The writer is chairman of Soros Fund Management and chairman of the
Open Society Institute. A longer version of this article appears in
the New York Review of Books.
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