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Bush's Latest Blunder: Israel, America & AIPAC

 From: "George Soros" <>
   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 <>,
   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 <>,
   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.


   Michael Vachon
   On behalf of George Soros

   *Bush's Latest Blunder:*
   America and Israel Must Open the Door to Hamas
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Bush
   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
   different tendencies.

   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.

   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *Thank you for your
   interest. *
   Please do not respond to this email, messages sent to this address
   will not be read or answered. For more information about George
   Soros or to read excerpts from his latest book please visit <>

   Media for Your Mind, Inc.
   199 Sudbury Road
   Massachusetts 01742
   United States
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