Of course not – not in the heady days of double-standards and fear mongering
File this one under Diplomatic Pipedream: “As a result of the recent Israeli elections, the West will boycott the rejectionist, quasi-racist new government of Binyamin Netanyahu and cripple the economy with punitive sanctions – just as it did with Hamas in 2006.”
Some hope this is. The appointment of Israel’s new Prime Minister hardly raised an eyebrow in Washington, despite his stated distaste for the idea of a Palestinian state on Israel’s side of the River Jordan, his torpedoing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and his belief that the savage bombing campaigns in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza this year represented the worst of lily-livered liberalism. Even support from Avigdor Lieberman, a settler-dwelling immigrant from Moldova who would rather there be no Palestinians in Israel, and no state to house them in either, has yet to provoke a diplomatic question mark.
Compare that with Hamas’s victory in Palestine three years before, which was regarded as nothing short of genocide in the making. The free and fair elections – at the height of the neo-con drive for liberal democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember – were instantly delegitimised, the new government ostracised and more than four million people subject to a repressive economic blockade that came on top of an already crippling occupation.
The treatment of Hamas from January 2006 is a study in Western hypocrisy. In elections described as “honest, fair, and safe” by monitor Jimmy Carter, Hamas won 76 of 132 available seats in the Palestinian Authority’s parliament. And while the ruling Fatah party immediately resigned, Hamas extended a conciliatory hand and immediately agreed to work with President Mahmoud Abbas in a unity government. But Condoleezza Rice, American Secretary of State, confirmed that the US wouldn’t work with the new authority, and with the EU cowering behind, all institutional aid to the PA was frozen on April 7th. Israel also proceeded to withhold all tax revenues from the Occupied Territories. The figure exceeded $1 billion.
The reasons for the boycott were laid down by the Quartet: Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by the terms of past agreements – even though a letter from new Prime Minister Ismail Haniya to George Bush expressing Hamas’s willingness to accept a Palestinian state on 1967 borders didn’t even merit a response.
Of course, the West makes no such demands of Israel, a state that uses overwhelming violence to enforce a 40-plus year occupation as well as devastate neighbouring countries, has continued to block Palestinian self-determination while colonising more of its land, and that has decisively ripped apart the Oslo Accords in 15 years of intransigence.
Hamas motives, it seems, were more of a problem than Israel’s actions.
In what became the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy, Gaza slipped into open civil war. When that spilled into rocket fire across the border, Israel responded with air raids that killed over 1,300 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority civilians.
As campaign poster, the January onslaught still proved insufficient for Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party, and Binyamin Netanyahu strode into power on the back of the biggest rightward shift in Israeli politics in a generation. And, true to form, the man who ran Israel between 1996 and 1998 and constantly rewrote the “bad” Oslo Accords to postpone withdrawals to less than 13 per cent of the agreed total and accelerate settlement activity – not least the massive Har Homa project in East Jerusalem – has already been setting out policies that seem to permanently postpone a Palestinian state.
At the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations in February, he openly stated he was putting “the surrender of land” to the Palestinian Authority “on hold”. He then added that it was “too early” to talk about a sovereign Palestinian Arab state and, in an interview with Haaretz, promised he would expand settlement activity in the West Bank.
In addition to his aggressive stance on Iran, it’s clear that he fulfils the Quartet’s anti-Hamas trifecta. He refuses to renounce violence, he refuses to accept a sovereign Palestine and refuses to abide by the commitments of Oslo – of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.
We look forward to an instant freeze in the $8 billion aid package any day now. No?