Friday, May 19, 2006

Price of Dual Regime Changes in Iran and Palestine

Hamas has offered an indefinite truce if Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders: (Yitzhak Benhorin, "Hamas: Ceasefire for Return to 1967 Border," 30 January 2006).

But Tel Aviv won't do that. It would rather have Hamas collapse due to lack of funds, and so would Washington:
U.S. officials said the Bush administration could take punitive action against banks that help provide money or services directly to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority because Washington has designated the Islamic militant group a "terrorist" organisation.

The United States has not threatened to punish banks that transfer funds directly to the office of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction was trounced by Hamas in January elections. ("Arab League Says to Transfer $50 Mln to Hamas Govt," Reuters, 23 AprIL 2006)
Or at least provoke a conflict between Hamas and Fatah:
Rival Palestinian forces faced off at Gaza's border crossing with Egypt after a Hamas official was caught with 639,000 euros ($A1.08 million) hidden in his clothing, authorities said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh vowed during Friday prayers not to disband a new Hamas-led security force and said he was prepared to increase its size in defiance of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Bush administration.

About 100 Hamas gunmen raced to the Rafah crossing where Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was caught with the money. Rafah is guarded by Abbas's presidential guard, raising fears of fresh Palestinian infighting after clashes on Thursday night.

Abbas's elite guard also called in reinforcements.

Hamas said Abu Zuhri was carrying Arab donations for the new government, which is desperately short of funds, and for Palestinians in Israeli jails.

"Is it a crime to bring in money?" Haniyeh said, defending his spokesman. "Are the Palestinian people being forced to starve?"

Abu Zuhri told Reuters: "If bringing support for my people is a crime then I am very proud of this crime."

Abu Zuhri initially refused to leave the border terminal without the money, which was confiscated by Palestinian customs agents. He later left and the gunmen withdrew. The militant group said it expected the money to be quickly returned.

But senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the president had ordered an investigation by the attorney-general.

The Palestinian Authority is facing a financial crisis after international donors suspended aid because of the Hamas-led government's refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel since coming to power in March. ("Hamas Aide Caught at Border with Cash," Reuters, 20 May 2006)
It's Tel Aviv's maximalist rejectionism that has compelled Hamas to rely on Tehran more than before.

Rather than prompting Tel Aviv to make peace with Hamas in an effort to isolate Iran, Washington is pursuing a strategy of regime changes in both Iran and Palestine. That's the sort of situation that makes liberals wonder if Tel Aviv is still really Washington's strategic asset or has already become its strategic burden, for there can be a blowback: destablization of the pro-Washington Arab regimes -- the Gulf states (Jim Wolf, "US Looks to Arm Iran's Neighbors, General Says," Reuters, 18 May 2006), Jordan (Jamal Halaby, "Jordan Plays Hardball with Hamas," Associated Press, 19 May 2006), and Egypt (Nadia Abou El-Magd/Associated Press, "Egypt Urges Hamas to Recognize Israel, Renounce Violence," USA Today, 2 February 2006) -- that have volunteered to serve in the dual regime change campaign.

If the price of dual regime changes is, for instance, the destruction of Abqaiq, "the world’s biggest oil processing complex," is the price worth it?

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