Committing a grave tactical error and displeasing Israeli shillseverywhere, Rice compared life in U.S. south to Palestinians’ plight:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a closed meeting of Arab and Israeli envoys in Annapolis this week that her childhood in the segregated U.S. south helped her to understand the plight of Palestinians and the fear felt by Israelis, the Dutch representative to the summit, Franz Timmermans, told the Washington Post on Thursday.
“I know what its like to hear that you can’t use a certain road, or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I know what it is like to feel discriminated against and powerless,” Rice was reported as saying.
Rice described her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama during the era of segregation and the killing of four young girls in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. Rice said the bombing, which killed one of her classmates, helps her understand the fear of terrorism felt by Israelis.
“Like Israelis, I understand what it’s like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer,” Rice was quoted in the Washington Post as saying.
The Washington Post’s article dealt with events that took place behind closed doors at the Annapolis summit on Tuesday.
According to the Post, Rice reportedly closed her statements by saying that both sides in the conflict had endured great pain and for far too long.
Henceforth Condi was to be marginalised, leading to her embarrassment by Olmert as he jumped over her head to Bush when it came to the US vote on UN Sec Council Res 1860.
Condi and Bush’s previous mistakes with Palestine are legend.
According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.
Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)
But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.
Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.
Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.
Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.
The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. “There is a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy,” he says. “It directly contradicts it.”
In public, Rice tried to look on the bright side of the Hamas victory. “Unpredictability,” she said, is “the nature of big historic change.” Even as she spoke, however, the Bush administration was rapidly revising its attitude toward Palestinian democracy.
Some analysts argued that Hamas had a substantial moderate wing that could be strengthened if America coaxed it into the peace process. Notable Israelis—such as Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency—shared this view. But if America paused to consider giving Hamas the benefit of the doubt, the moment was “milliseconds long,” says a senior State Department official. “The administration spoke with one voice: ‘We have to squeeze these guys.’ With Hamas’s election victory, the freedom agenda was dead.”
The first step, taken by the Middle East diplomatic “Quartet”—the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—was to demand that the new Hamas government renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept the terms of all previous agreements. When Hamas refused, the Quartet shut off the faucet of aid to the Palestinian Authority, depriving it of the means to pay salaries and meet its annual budget of roughly $2 billion.
Israel clamped down on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, especially into and out of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. Israel also detained 64 Hamas officials, including Legislative Council members and ministers, and even launched a military campaign into Gaza after one of its soldiers was kidnapped. Through it all, Hamas and its new government, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, proved surprisingly resilient.
Washington reacted with dismay when Abbas began holding talks with Hamas in the hope of establishing a “unity government.” On October 4, 2006, Rice traveled to Ramallah to see Abbas. They met at the Muqata, the new presidential headquarters that rose from the ruins of Arafat’s compound, which Israel had destroyed in 2002.
On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.
Fatah’s Last Stand
The Hamas leadership in Gaza is adamant that the coup would not have happened if Fatah had not provoked it. Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas’s chief spokesman, says the leak in Al-Majd convinced the party that “there was a plan, approved by America, to destroy the political choice.” The arrival of the first Egyptian-trained fighters, he adds, was the “reason for the timing.” About 250 Hamas members had been killed in the first six months of 2007, Barhoum tells me. “Finally we decided to put an end to it. If we had let them stay loose in Gaza, there would have been more violence.”
“Everyone here recognizes that Dahlan was trying with American help to undermine the results of the elections,” says Mahmoud Zahar, the former foreign minister for the Haniyeh government, who now leads Hamas’s militant wing in Gaza. “He was the one planning a coup.”
Zahar and I speak inside his home in Gaza, which was rebuilt after a 2003 Israeli air strike destroyed it, killing one of his sons. He tells me that Hamas launched its operations in June with a limited objective: “The decision was only to get rid of the Preventive Security Service. They were the ones out on every crossroads, putting anyone suspected of Hamas involvement at risk of being tortured or killed.” But when Fatah fighters inside a surrounded Preventive Security office in Jabaliya began retreating from building to building, they set off a “domino effect” that emboldened Hamas to seek broader gains.