Think what you may of him, but Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh put his finger on a great deal of truth in his Washington Post op-ed a few days ago.
The current Gaza invasion is only the latest effort to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year. It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to ‘reconsider’ her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment. The ‘kidnapped’ Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.
His assessment of the United States’ hand in this is particularly revealing. Despite being the self-declared standard bearer of Middle East democracy, the Bush administration has stood by and watched the outcome of Palestinians’ clean and fair elections essentially be annulled by force. In an article today for the Century Foundation, Michael Shtender-Auerbach argues that this complicity goes part and parcel with Bush’s disengagement from the Middle East peace process. “Let us not mistake American disengagement for neutrality: all of the signs point to a U.S. administration that appears to be in full support of the Israeli agenda to topple Hamas,” he writes pointedly.
Bush’s response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Lebanon—warning that ”Whatever Israel does… it should not weaken the Saniora government in Lebanon”—further highlights the double standard. Whatever happens in the present crisis in Gaza, this seems like a great way to make sure it shakes out as badly as possible in terms of our credibility and influence in the region.