I'm a bit confused.
And if I'm a bit confused then it is no wonder that the Arab world is confused. Palestinian leaders are totally confused. And Israel? Israel is just plain perplexed. No one is at all bemused.
Who can understand United States foreign policy when it is replete with mixed messages and convoluted communication?
Secretary of State Condi Rice just finished a set of meetings in the Middle East region with Palestinians and with Israelis. After her meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the person responsible for creating a unity government with Hamas, Rice held a press conference. At the press conference the secretary of state, the highest ranking American diplomat, admitted that the United States of America will work towards a two-state solution and, she added, the United States will "work on Israel." The secretary of state said that the US is trying to create an independent and separate track of negotiations for a Palestinian state despite the new unity government led by Hamas.
The message delivered by Secretary of State Rice is simple and clear. So why the confusion?
The United States has said, sworn, affirmed and pledged not to meet with Hamas or any Hamas affiliates. And then the United States turns around and meets with Abbas and others in the Hamas Unity Government. And then the United States promises to do the utmost to help out that government create their ultimate goal, an independent state.
There's more. Israel has said that the Israeli government will not meet with anyone who meets with Hamas. Israel is saying, in other words, that it is now impossible to make a distinction between the groups, impossible to split up Hamas and Fatah. Israel is saying that once Fatah joined Hamas, Fatah became like Hamas.
Surprisingly, United Nations Secretary General Ban in an awkward nod to Israel would not meet with Hamas. But he did meet with Fatah members of the Hamas government. Personally, that is just what I would expect from the United Nation's top man.
Now it gets even more complicated and confusing.
The entire Arab world plus every member nation of the United Nations and all of Israel knows that the United States is Israel's strongest supporter. So just why is Israel's big brother making these pledges to the Palestinians and to the rest of the Arab world? Why?
The United States is being inconsistent and when that happens, everyone suffers, everyone gets hurt. Israel gets hurt because the United States is publicly, diplomatically, openly showing that the two nations no longer stand shoulder to shoulder on the question of Hamas. The Palestinians get hurt because they cannot possibly decipher what the United States really expects from them and that plays directly into the hands of the extremists i.e. Hamas. The Arab world gets hurt because double messages are doubly hard to read and the Arab world cannot possibly figure why the United States could care about the Palestinians when the Arab world could not care less.
Even the United States gets hurt. The United States is now perceived as flip-floppy and wobbly by a world that admires straight forward decisions and decisive action.
The Secretary of State is not to be blamed. In this instance, she really is only the messenger. This unfortunate change in policy comes directly from the White House. And this White House is not the first to fall victim to Hamas. The Clinton White House fell under the same spell. The belief that if you accommodate Palestinian leaders they will tame the terrorist leaders who will in turn exchange their suicide bombs for negotiating tables is naive, Pollyanna-ish and mistaken.
History is our witness. It all began with Yasser Arafat. Arafat claimed that with the right amount of money he could handle the terrorist problem. So the United States gave him money, suitcases and suitcases full of money. The more money the United States threw at Arafat, the richer he became. And the terrorist problem remained the same. And Arafat received more money.
The United States has made a mistake. The United States has double-crossed Israel.
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