Bush Plan Eliminated Obstacle to Gaza Assault

WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (IPS) — Until mid-2007, there was a serious political obstacle to a massive conventional war by Israel against Hamas in Gaza: the fact that Hamas had won free and fair elections for the Palestinian parliament and was still the leading faction in a fully legitimate government.

But the George W. Bush administration helped Israel eliminate that obstacle by deliberately provoking Hamas to seize power in Gaza. That plan was aimed at getting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the democratically elected Hamas government — something Bush had tried unsuccessfully to do for many months.

Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Palestinian parliament in the January 2006 elections, and the following month, the Palestinian Legislative Council voted for a new government under Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Bush administration immediately began to use its control over the “Quartet” (the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia), to try to reverse the results of the election.

The Quartet responded to the Hamas victory by demanding that Hamas renounce all armed resistance to Israel and even “disarm” before a political solution was reached. That was in effect a demand that Israel be allowed to use its military and economic controls over the West Bank and Gaza to impose its own unilateral solution on the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration and the Europeans cut off all financing for the Palestinian government, while Israel refused to hand over to the Palestinian authorities the VAT and customs duties it collected on behalf of the Palestinians under the Paris Protocol signed with the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords.

When Abbas continued to resist U.S. demands for an end to the elected government, both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told him at the United Nations in September 2006 that they would not accept a Palestinian government with Hamas participation.

Then Rice was dispatched to Ramallah in early October 2006 to tighten the screws on the Palestinian president. She demanded a commitment from Abbas to dissolve the Haniyeh government within two weeks, and then accepted his promise to do so within four weeks, according to a later U.S. State Department memorandum published in Vanity Fair magazine.

There was one problem, however, with the U.S. demand: under Article 45 of the Palestinian Authority’s “Basic Law”, Abbas could fire the prime minister, but he could not appoint a new one who did not represent the majority party in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Abbas failed to act on the dissolution promise, so the Bush administration gave him a memo demanding that Hamas be given a “clear choice, with a clear deadline” to accept or reject “a new government that meets the Quartet principles”. The memo, published in part last January in Vanity Fair, said that if Hamas refused that demand, “you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.”

It further demanded that Abbas “strengthen his team” by bringing in “credible figures of strong standing in the international community”. That was a reference to the long-time director of Fatah’s paramilitary forces, Muhammad Dahlan, who had long been regarded as the candidate of the Bush administration and its allies. In April 2003, Yasser Arafat had been under pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to name Dahlan as head of Palestinian security.

In late 2006, Rice got Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to agree to provide covert military training and money to equip a major increase in Dahlan’s militia.

But there was another element of the Bush administration plan. It encouraged Dahlan to carry out attacks against the Hamas security and political infrastructure in Gaza, which were well-known to be far stronger than that of Abbas’s Fatah faction. In a later interview with Vanity Fair, Dahlan admitted that he had carried out “very clever warfare” against Hamas in Gaza for many months.

Other sources said that Dahlan’s militia was carrying out torture and kidnappings of Hamas security personnel.

Alvaro de Soto, then U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, wrote in his confidential End of Mission Report that the U.S. “clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas…” He recalled that the “U.S. envoy” to a Feb. 2, 2007 meeting of the Quartet in Washington had twice declared, “how much I like this violence”, because “it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas.”

That U.S. envoy was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Bush administration seemed to want Hamas to know about its plan to help Fatah use force against the Hamas organization in Gaza. A Jan. 5, 2007 Reuters story datelined Jerusalem revealed an internal U.S. document showing that the United States had pledged 86 million dollars to “strengthen and reform elements of the Palestinian security sector controlled by the PA presidency” and “dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza”.

When Abbas negotiated a new agreement with Hamas in Mecca in February 2007 on a Palestinian unity government, the Bush administration responded by drafting a secret “action plan for the Palestinian presidency” which threatened that the “international community” would “no longer deal exclusively with the Presidency” if it did not go along with U.S. demands, and that “[m]any countries in the EU and the G8” would “start looking for more credible interlocutors on the Palestinian side who can deliver on key issues of security and governance”.

The plan, dated Mar. 2, 2007, called for Abbas to “start taking necessary action against groups undermining the ceasefire with the goal of ensuring all armed groups within Palestine security institutions in stages (between 2007 and 2008)…” It promised to help Abbas to “impose necessary order on the Palestinian street” through “superiority” of Fatah forces over Hamas, after which there would be new elections in autumn 2007.

Again that U.S. plan was not kept secret but was leaked in April 2007 by the Jordanian newspaper Al-Majd. That could only have happened if Jordanian intelligence services, which cooperative very closely with the United States, made the decision to leak it to the press.

Then, on Jun. 7, 2007 the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz revealed that Israel had been asked to authorise the shipment of dozens of Egyptian armored cars and hundreds of rockets and thousands of hand grenades for the Fatah security forces.

The leaked plans for a military buildup were an open invitation to Hamas to take preemptive action. The day after the Haaretz story, Hamas launched a campaign which eliminated the Fatah security presence in Gaza in five days.

The day after the complete defeat of Dahlan’s forces in Gaza, Abbas dissolved the Haniyeh unity government and named his own prime minister, in violation of the Palestinian charter.

The rout of Dahlan’s forces was a predictable consequence of the Bush administration’s policy. As the commander of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Khalid Jaberi, told Vanity Fair’s David Rose, “We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves [the Bush administration’s] overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.”

But the Bush administration had not only accomplished its goal of eliminating a Hamas-dominated government; it had also set up a new argument that could later be used to justify an all-out Israeli offensive in Gaza: that Hamas had mounted an “illegal coup” in Gaza. That was the term that Rice used on Jan. 2 in justifying the Israeli operations against Gaza.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Read other articles by Gareth.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Gary Corseri said on January 6th, 2009 at 2:22pm #

    At last, we get some clarity about the machinations behind the scenes—the political intrigues, war-gaming, sinister double-dealing and betrayals now bringing forth this holocaust in Gaza.

    Thanks to Gareth Porter for first-rate reporting that uncovers facts and unveils motives! It is really an old story: Several US administrations have complied with the Zionist project—Ariel Sharon’s, Bibi Netanyahu’s, Menachem Begin’s, et. al.—to create “facts on the ground,” while dismantling Palestine, establishing “Israeli settlements,” and eliminating any effective resistance to Zionist aggression.

    Negating the results of Hamas’s victory in the ’07 election—judged by many international observers to be more fair than recent US elections!—should surprise no one familiar with US policy stretching back to Vietnam, the Cold War, and even before. We have made an art form of creating puppet regimes which squawk about anti-Communism (then) and anti-Terrorism (now), establish a façade of “free elections” and “free trade”—and which then invite international bankers and financiers to “manage” the economy, abetted by US armed forces or armaments and “training” to “manage” the restive natives.

    In Palestine, the game has been, once again, divide and conquer. Mislead, lie and betray. Blame the victim. Divide Hamas and Fatah so that the Zionist entity could conquer both Gaza and the West Bank. Mislead with Oslo Accords and scores of other UN resolutions and various agreements promising a “two-state solution,” or “peace”—and then sabotaging the process as the long-sought goal for which all sensible, decent people—Palestinians, Muslims, Jews and non-Jews—yearned did seem, at last, to draw near.

    Should we be surprised that the US was arming Fatah death squads led by Dahlan? Didn’t we embrace these tactics when we covertly and overtly embraced paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala? Didn’t the Brits employ such tactics when they supported one faction of the I.R.A. over another? When we annexed Hawaii, didn’t we find willing collaborators to defraud their own people for a buck, for power, to be on the winning side—whatever?

    This has been a sordid tale of colonization. It stretches back over the centuries and it reflects miserably on all who have profitted from it and on those who have been complicit in it.

  2. bozh said on January 6th, 2009 at 3:44pm #

    while the palestinian leadership is divided about how to deal with quartet ( all evil empires) and israel, i do not expect mass of palestinians to be divided about the major issue; that of having a viable state of their own.

    we can recall that when clinton in ’01 offered palestinians some shards comprising about, i’m not sure now, about 14% of the remnants of palestine, fatah headed by arafat had rejected it.

    then an obvious question arises? if fatah is a traitor now , why is not US now offeering them a new deal?
    in view that the new fatah is a different group and presumably willing to settle for less than what arafat rejected, a lesser offer wld have been made by now.

    and abbas being an ally of the qurtet/israel, wld pocket the money and sell out?
    so why is bush scared to proffer his version of how large palestine will be? it does seem then, bush or US is unwilling to make an offer because US knows it wld be rejected.

    another question arises, What does fatah know or hope for, that we nor hamas know or hope for?

    one thing is sure, there are almost as many palestinians as ‘jews’ in expalestine. add to that a significant fact that ‘jews’ aren’t a people but a mixures of many colors and voelken, and ‘jewish’ situation appears much shakiewr.

    we got people, said once arafat. palestinians, after losing some 5-600 people, will just make more babies and better fighters.
    killing palestinians seems to be of little or no strategic value. israel is far away from its final goal.
    the telos appears to be at least all of palestine. to do that they must oust all palestine.
    so oil is the master here. many lands wld not permit expulsiom because it may geopardize oil flow. thnx

  3. Shabnam said on January 6th, 2009 at 5:59pm #

    There is a RUMER that the Zionist mass murderers have a plant to keep the water resources and transfer about, probably, ten percent of Stolen Palestine to Egypt and Jordan, 5 percent each. This is the first time I have heart about such NONSENSE. This has been Palestinian land for past, at least, 21 centuries where Palestinians have continually lived on their land. The fu**ing Zionists, thieves and terrorists, must get out of our region as soon as possible and go to those places where they came from. Down with Zionism and its supporters.

  4. Shabnam said on January 6th, 2009 at 6:01pm #

    Not a plant rather a plan

  5. Shabnam said on January 6th, 2009 at 6:36pm #

    This is not American plan, this is an Israeli plan, forced upon their puppet, George Bush, who will take it into their fucking graves, one by one.
    Down with war criminals and their puppets, Bush and Obama, the first Jewish president. Obama and Bush both are war criminals. America is a Zionist puppet state where majorities are accomplice in Zionist war crimes.

  6. louisa said on January 7th, 2009 at 7:32am #

    What happened to Susan Abulhawa’s piece? Did I imagine reading it yesterday or did it get censored?

  7. mebosa ritchie said on January 7th, 2009 at 4:44pm #

    Dissident Voice is an internet newsletter dedicated to challenging the distortions and lies of the corporate press and the privileged classes it serves. The goal of Dissident Voice is to provide hard hitting, thought provoking and even entertaining news and commentaries on politics and culture that can serve as ammunition in struggles for peace and social justice.

    so says the shpiel at the top of about dv
    but one is not allowed to be a dissident voice on dissident voice
    all the articles about gaza are anti-israel and any pro-israel postings are removed and the poster gets blocked
    a bit hypocritical,dissident voice or do you only want to hear opinions that agree with??
    is that not fascism

  8. Max Shields said on January 7th, 2009 at 6:54pm #

    mebosa ritchie
    That’s right, DV is about alternative voices which is why we do our best to ignore the corporate zionist version provided (like yours).

  9. Shabnam said on January 7th, 2009 at 9:07pm #

    Israel is doing everything to CENSOR information to prevent its war crimes activity reaches the outside world. Israel is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative in Gaza for Public Relation purposes. But, many journalists put their lives in danger to report on situation on Gaza’s suffering . A Palestinian Journalist working for an Iranian television station has been arrested and with his assistant has been taken to an unspecified location. No one has information on their condition.

    KHADR SHAHINE, who reported for Iran’s state-owned Arabic language Al-Alam television station, has been arrested with a spurious charge “violating censorship rules” where he is accused of reported the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive against the Gaza Strip before it was permitted by military censors, Israeli authorities said.

    Israel cannot survive by censoring its war crimes against defenseless people of Gaza. They have taken Khadr Shahine, the Journalist, a brave reporter who was doing his job. Israel must free this journalist and his assistant immediately. Their job is to report the truth about Israeli ‘s war crimes against humanity. There is a rumor that they want to give him a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for this spurious charge. Khadr Shahine a Palestinian who lives in East Jerusalem. He covered the Israel assault against Lebanon 2 years ago.


  10. bozh said on January 8th, 2009 at 5:05am #

    “shpiel” derives from german word “spielen”. are you a selfhating jew?
    and then we have “shlep” , from “schleppen”; weh, schlotz, stimme, etc.
    what’s happened to your shemitic tongue? the one arabs also use?
    yabotinski, later ze’ev, must be turning in his grave while you are speaking same words nazis used.
    do you also say, Heil Herr Scharon, Herr Lieberman, Herr Schmuel?