A setback for the Bush doctrine in Gaza

A setback for United States and Israel

The core of US strategy in the Southwest and Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon is to establish puppet regimes that will fight America’s enemies on its behalf. This strategy seems to be failing everywhere. The Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan. Despite its “surge” the US is no closer to putting down the resistance in Iraq and cannot even trust the Iraqi army it helped set up. The Lebanese army, which the US hopes to bolster as a counterweight to Hizballah, has performed poorly against a few hundred foreign fighters holed up in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (although it has caused death and devastation to many innocent Palestinian refugees). Now in Gaza, the latest blow.

Israel’s policy is a local version of the US strategy — and it has also been tried and failed. For over two decades Israel relied on a proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army, to help it enforce the occupation of southern Lebanon. In 2000, as Israeli forces hastily withdrew, this militia collapsed just as quickly as Dahlan’s forces and many of its members fled to Israel. Hamas is now referring to the rout of Dahlan’s forces as a “second liberation of Gaza.”

A consistent element of Israeli strategy has been to attempt to circumvent Palestinian resistance by trying to create quisling leaderships. Into the 1970s, Israel still saw the PLO as representing true resistance. So it set up the collaborationist “village leagues” in the West Bank as an alternative. In 1976, it allowed municipal elections in the West Bank in an effort to give this alternative leadership some legitimacy. When PLO-affiliated candidates swept the board, Israel began to assassinate the PLO mayors with car bombs or force them into exile. Once some exiled PLO leaders, most notably Yasser Arafat, became willing subcontractors of the occupation (an arrangement formalized by the Oslo Accords), a new resistance force emerged in the form of Hamas. Israeli efforts to back Dahlan and Abbas, Arafat’s successor, as quisling alternatives have now backfired spectacularly.

In the wake of the Fatah collapse in Gaza, Ha’aretz reported that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert will advise President Bush that Gaza must be isolated from the West Bank. This can be seen as an attempt to shore up Abbas whose survival Israel sees as essential to maintaining the fiction that it does not directly rule millions of disenfranchised Palestinians. A total collapse of the Palestinian Authority would expose Israel’s legal obligation, as the occupying power, to provide for the welfare of the Palestinians it rules.

What now for the Palestinian under occupation? read more

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