by W. Patrick Lang (bio below)

WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Seventy U.S. senators on Wednesday called on President George W. Bush to make it clear to Palestinian leaders that Hamas and other groups that the United States wants terrorist organizations to disarm or be banned from upcoming Palestinian elections. The senators in a letter to Bush said the United States “would have little choice but to reevaluate all aspects of our relations” with the Palestinian Authority if Hamas “or such groups” were brought into it. The Senate letter follows a resolution passed overwhelmingly last week by the House of Representatives that also urged the exclusion of Hamas from the Jan. 25 parliamentary ballot. The House resolution said Hamas’ participation could undermine the ability of the United States to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Senators said they were “deeply disappointed” that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “has yet to do what the Palestinian Authority has committed to doing on numerous occasions — asserting its control over the terrorist groups that operate freely within the West Bank and Gaza.” The senators said Bush should “press the Palestinian leaders to use the leverage they now have with these terrorist groups to insist that they adhere to a basic set of principles before they can run for political office.” Hamas has grown in popularity among Palestinians for a corruption-free reputation, its extensive charity network and its role in suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel. Reuters/AlertNet

… the leverage they now have with these terrorist groups … What leverage is that? Mahmoud Abbas is and always was incapable of “asserting his control” over Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and similar groups. These are groups that have always rejected the authority of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and they continue to do so. Israel destroyed the para-military forces of the PNA several years ago, fearing apparently that they would become a serious enemy in the event of Palestinian statehood. Abbas and his various PNA/Fatah predecessors have been a “wasting” element in Palestinian politics for some time as Israel has gradually demonstrated to the Palestinian people that they are not to be taken seriously.

Was the PNA supposed to attack and subdue Hamas/PIJ with what is left of their security forces. What a joke! They could never do it. Never! what is more the Palestinians have no desire whatever to make life easier for the Israelis by fighting a civil war against each other. “Assert its control over…” Ridiculous. Which brilliant scholar at AEI or wherever sold that to Rice and company?

We have a long history of self-defeating policy in the Middle East and one could view this folly as part of the American tradition of diplomatic foolishness in the region. Sadly, the Israelis, who live there and ought to know better, encourage this kind of silliness instead of having their friends in AIPAC put a brake on it. If the Israelis can not find a political solution with the Palestinians, they can always build their walls higher, but to further confuse the thinking of the US Congress is a big mistake.

This will further increase the prospect of Hamas political victory. Abbas should postpone the election again and hope that people shut up over here.

Col. Patrick W. Lang (Ret.), a highly decorated retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, served as “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism” for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and was later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. Col. Lang was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For his service in the DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” He is a frequent commentator on television and radio, including MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (interview), CNN and Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room (interview), PBS’s Newshour, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” (interview), and more .

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Drinking the Kool-Aid,” Middle East Policy Council Journal, Vol. XI, Summer 2004, No. 2

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