Attempts A Political Coup
On Behalf Of Washington
By Jean Shaoul
19 December 2006
Abbas, the Fatah president of the Palestinian Authority, has announced
that he will dissolve the recently elected parliament and call new presidential
and parliamentary elections. Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Associated
Press that the president would set the date within a week, and that
new elections would be held within three months.
The move is an unconstitutional
attempt to unseat the Hamas-led government that has been engineered
by the United States and Israel. It threatens to precipitate a full-scale
civil war. Washington and Jerusalem also have the backing of European
powers and are being aided and abetted by the Arab regimes Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf States.
The move by Abbas is the
product of consultation with the Bush administration. Washington welcomed
the announcement of fresh elections, saying that it hoped they would
help end violence in the region. Britain and Spain also welcomed the
call. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in Cairo as part of
a Middle East tour, urged other governments to back Abbas. Miri Eisin,
a spokeswoman for the Israeli government, said that Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert “respects Abu Mazen and hopes that he will have the capability
to assert his leadership over all of the Palestinian people.”
Abbas echoed the position
of the US and European Union in blaming the economic and political crisis
created by Western sanctions on the refusal of Hamas to recognise Israel
or participate in a government that would do so. The best solution,
he said, would be to form a national unity government that would win
the support of the Quartet (US, the European Union, United Nations and
Russia) and enable the resumption of economic aid to Palestine. But
months of talks between Hamas and Fatah have collapsed.
Hamas is vehemently opposed
to new elections, having won a four-year term of office only last January
with a landslide victory. It denounced the decision, calling it a coup
against the Palestinian government and the will of the Palestinian people.
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya,
said the call for elections was a recipe for violence. “I think
this will lead to bloodshed because this is something against the constitution.”
“Abu Mazen is not part
of the solution anymore. He is part of the problem now,” he continued.
Several Palestinian factions
based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and including Hamas’s leadership
in exile, also rejected early elections. “Any step outside the
context of the laws is rejected by us all and this is not just the position
of Hamas,” said Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. The
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine supported the Hamas stance.
Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah, who met with Mashaal in Damascus,
urged Hamas and Fatah to reach an agreement, calling Abbas’s decision
Abbas also announced the
revival of the Palestine Liberation Organisation negotiating department,
implying that he was ready to go into talks with Israel and accede to
its terms. A senior Israeli defence spokesman said, “This is a
very important internal decision by the Palestinians, which creates
a new opportunity to relinquish the path of terror and return to the
The decision to call new
elections must lead to an escalation of the internecine warfare now
raging between Hamas and Fatah. There is every possibility that Abbas
will use this to declare a state of emergency for 30 days. This would
allow him to assume special powers, including those of the current government.
has already sparked renewed fighting between Hamas and Fatah. It directly
followed the attempted assassination of Haniya. Hamas accused Mohammed
Dahlan, warlord and former Fatah chief of internal security in Gaza,
of orchestrating the assassination attempt when Haniya was crossing
the border into Gaza from Egypt after a tour of the Middle East to seek
economic aid. Haniya had been detained at the border on the orders of
Israel’s Defence Minister, Amir Peretz, who instructed the European
monitors at the crossing to refuse his re-entry into Gaza.
Following seven hours of
negotiations, the Fatah border guards let Haniya through after he left
the money he had collected in Egypt. But his detention brought more
than 1,000 Hamas members to the checkpoint, and armed clashes broke
out during which a bodyguard was killed and 26 people were injured,
included Haniya’s son. Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh told
Israel’s Army Radio that government officials made the right decision
not to let Haniyeh bring the money into Gaza, adding that if he had
been killed, “I wouldn’t put up a mourning tent.”
Last Monday, masked gunmen
fired on the car carrying the three young children of Colonel Baha Balousha,
to school in Gaza City, killing them and their driver. Balousha is a
Fatah intelligence officer and a leading prison interrogator during
a Fatah crackdown on Hamas during the late 1990s. On Wednesday, Fatah
gunmen killed Bassam El-Farra, a 32-year-old commander of Hamas’s
military wing and Sharia judge, in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. On Thursday,
a gun battle broke out when Fatah security forces arrested Hisham Mukhaimer,
a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, in Gaza City, in connection
with the killing of the three young children. More than 40 Palestinians
have been killed in factional fighting since March.
On Friday, the West Bank
city of Ramallah became a battleground when Hamas supporters tried to
march towards the town centre to celebrate the 19th anniversary of Hamas’s
founding. They were met by a mass deployment of Fatah police, and 32
people were wounded by stones and gunfire. In Gaza City, masked Hamas
gunmen battled with Fatah-allied police near a security post, a block
from the home of Mohammed Dahlan.
A policy made in the USA
The Bush administration,
once it came to power, opposed and sabotaged any negotiated settlement
between Israel and the Palestinians. It supported Israel in its refusal
to recognise Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat as a “partner
for peace.” Arafat was kept under virtual house arrest and his
government compound all but destroyed, after he refused to suppress
the uprising that erupted after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit
to the Temple Mount in September 2000. This gave Sharon the green light
to expand the Zionist settlements and launch attacks on the Palestinians
when he subsequently came to power.
The White House favoured
Abbas, a businessman, as prime minister, and Dahlan as his security
chief, after both had indicated their willingness to crack down on militant
Palestinian groups. Abbas was appointed as PM by Arafat on March 19,
2003—the very day Iraq was invaded.
At the time, Bush made a
pretence of returning to Washington’s role as an “honest
broker” in the long-running dispute and proposed the “Road
Map” in late April in order to help British Prime Minister Tony
Blair and various Arab regimes defend their support for the US-led war.
While the Road Map reiterated the commitment to a Palestinian state,
even beginning to implement its provisions was made conditional on the
Palestinians ending all resistance to Israel. But Abbas, too, balked
at the civil war that would have resulted from an attempt to impose
the repressive measures demanded by Washington and Tel Aviv, and resigned
On Arafat’s death in
November 2004, the White House made clear that Abbas was the only acceptable
candidate for the presidency. He assumed the post in January 2005.
By April 2004, Bush had effectively
shelved his Road Map and accepted Sharon’s policy of “unilateral
separation.” This meant drawing up Israel’s borders to permanently
annex much of the West Bank and the whole of Jerusalem, leaving any
future Palestinian state as little more than a few discontinuous Bantustans
hemmed in behind an eight-metre-high concrete barrier.
A pattern was established
in which Israel mounted repeated military assaults designed to provoke
a violent response from militant groups that could be used as the pretext
for jettisoning talks and tightening the border controls, road blocks
and curfews that made the Palestinians’ lives unbearable. For
its part, the US continuously reiterated that statehood was entirely
dependent upon Abbas suppressing opposition to Israel.
But this policy was to backfire.
Abbas’s close relations with the US, the increasing economic hardship
imposed on the Palestinians by Israel and widespread government corruption
only served to alienate the mass of the Palestinians from Fatah, and
strengthen Hamas. As a result, Hamas won a landslide victory in the
parliamentary elections in January.
The consistent response by
the US and Israel has been to seek to overthrow the government and to
stoke up the tensions between Hamas and Fatah in the hope of precipitating
civil war. Washington ensured that international sanctions prevented
any economic aid from reaching the Palestinian government, while Israel
withheld $600 million in taxes due to the Palestinian Authority and
threatened Hamas with the assassination of their leaders, including
the prime minister himself.
Last summer, Israel launched
a full-scale war on Gaza that killed more than 300 people in order to
scupper efforts to secure the acceptance by Hamas of the so-called “Prisoners’
Charter,” which accepted a “two-state” solution that
implicitly recognised Israel, and tried to facilitate a common command
structure between Hamas and Fatah.
It now appears that the US
and Israel are preparing to subcontract the task of suppressing the
Palestinians to Fatah. Washington has encouraged Abbas to strengthen
the power of the presidency to counter the Hamas government, and US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she would ask Congress for
tens of millions of dollars for Abbas’s security forces.
There is evidence that the
US has been making preparations for the civil conflict that has been
provoked by Abbbas’s announcement for months. A report in the
November 18 Economist noted that Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dayton, America’s
security envoy to the Palestinians, had said that the Quartet should
give up any hopes of a unity government and back Abbas by whatever means
necessary to help him take on Hamas. The Economist cites a diplomatic
source as saying that the other three members of the Quartet balked
at this because it would be “tantamount to backing one side in
a future civil war.”
is in line with the hostile response of the Bush administration and
Israel to the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report that urges the
US to make some concessions to the Palestinians as part of a wider initiative
to stabilise the Middle East. The White House’s response echoes
the dictum of Sharon: “When in crisis, escalate, escalate, escalate.”
Nothing short of complete submission by the Palestinians to Washington’s
dictates will do: the time has come for Abbas and neighbouring Arab
bourgeoisies to impose this on the long-suffering Palestinians by brute
force on Israel’s behalf.
To this end, according to
an earlier report in the November 4 edition of the Economist, the US
is already financing a “training camp” near the West Bank
city of Jericho for the Palestinians’ Force 17, for new recruits
for the presidential guard, as part of its plans for “security
reform.” Israel has sanctioned the transfer of heavy weaponry
from Jordan in the form of the Badr Brigade, a Jordanian-based division
of the Palestinian Liberation Army, which operates largely under Jordanian
command, and allowed Fatah’s militia, Tanzim, to rearm.
The Economist cites Abbas’s
advisors as saying that these troops would provide the backbone of a
force of tens of thousands to take on Hamas, whose own forces are said
to number 5,700 in Gaza and 1,500 in the West Bank.
Share Your Insights