Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Bin Laden, Palestinians Play Good Cop/Bad Cop

Gazans protesting the killing of Bin Laden
Here are the PA’s representatives on the killing of Bin Laden:

Salaam Fayyad viewed the killing as, “a major, mega landmark event, ending the life of a person who was involved in egregious acts of terror and destruction.” He hoped this would “mark the beginning of the end of a violent era.”

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said, "Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods -- the violent methods -- that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world.”

By contrast, Hamas’ Ismail al-Ashqar opined that it was, “state terrorism that America carries out against Muslims.” And Ismail Haniyah condemned it as, “as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood." Furthermore, “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."

In the NY Times article, Hamas Condemns the Killing of Bin Laden; Fares Akram wondered at Hamas' timing of such audacious statements given its current mission to make nice with Fatah and win international approval of a self-declared state:

“Though the Islamic group Hamas is also defined as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and others, its denunciations were surprising to many, given their timing. Just two weeks ago, Hamas forces stormed a building in Gaza where Al Qaeda inspired extremists accused of kidnapping and killing a pro-Palestinian Italian activist were holed up. Two died and Hamas arrested the third. And on Wednesday, Hamas is expected to sign a preliminary reconciliation deal in Cairo with its secularist, mainstream rival Fatah, which is now based in the West Bank. The West Bank leadership is currently trying to win Western support for the deal and the unified interim government that is supposed to emerge.”

So, what’s going on? I think that the PA and Hamas are playing a tag-team, good cop/bad cop game in order to test the West’s mettle in drawing a red line on what is considered acceptable in the composition of a new Palestinian ‘entity.’ Let it not be forgotten that Bin Laden has always been most popular among Palestinians as compared to other Muslims.

As Yehuda Misky writes in, Jewish Ideas Daily, “…there are certain elemental red lines that should mark the outer boundaries of what can be deemed legitimate progress on the part of democratizing societies. These include non-belligerence; a fundamental respect for human rights; the demonstrated will to implement the basics of republican government and the institutions of civil society; the acceptance of existing states' right to exist and the willingness to negotiate territorial and other disputes in good faith. All these are of a piece with the oft-stated requirements of the so-called Middle East Quartet (made up of the U.S., the European Union, the UN, and Russia): namely, commitments by both Fatah and Hamas to previous agreements, renunciation of terror and violence, and recognition of Israel.

“If, in the emerging coalescence of Hamas and Fatah, the Quartet as well as individual Western and other governments were to insist on these red lines, they would at least show, to Israel and above all to themselves, what they stand for and what they will neither tolerate nor subsidize. The awful question raised by this latest development, and by the awaited response to it of the Western democracies, is whether any red lines remain at all.”

Jackson Diehl echos these concerns regarding Hamas’ chutzpah: “These may seem like predictable reactions by known terrorist organizations. But they ought to be deeply troubling for a host of Western diplomats who lately have been promoting the idea that both the Taliban and Hamas are suitable partners for peace negotiations.

“Haniyeh’s comments will be even more concerning, as they come days before a planned meeting in Cairo at which Hamas and the secular Fatah movement are to agree on a reconciliation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas long ago renounced violence against Israel, and his West Bank security forces are funded and trained by the United States.

“Now Abbas will find himself agreeing to form a joint Palestinian government with a man who has just condemned the U.S. killing of “Arab holy warrior” bin Laden. The broker of the deal, Egypt, has been pressing the Obama administration to accept the accord and to put forward a plan for Palestinian statehood in response.

“Should the mourner of bin Laden be recognized as a worthy partner for peace with Israel, or a potential leader of a new Arab state? Haniyeh’s comments won’t leave the White House -- which has been weighing how to respond to the Palestinian unity deal -- with much of a choice.”

I wonder. Let’s wait and see what conditions the White House and the Quartet place on the Fatah/Hamas nuptials. I’m not optimistic.

Yaacov Lozowick has a cute way of putting it: 

"I suppose it's not surprising that Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, responded to the killing by stating that the operation is 'the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs.' Still, surprising or not, from now on whenever someone tells us Israel must accommodate itself to Hamas, we need to put on a puzzled face and say something along the lines of 'Hamas? Weren't they the ones who condemned the Americans for killing Bin Laden? That Hamas?'  If needed, one can add that Haniya is often described as a moderate Hamas fellow, not one of your militant types at all actually.'

This just in: H/T Harry's Place: Fatah Military Wing Calls Bin Laden Killing "Catastrophe"

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