23 November 2012

One Way of Connecting the Palestinian Dots

Filed under: Culture — ktismatics @ 2:27 pm

First, the dots:

Obama wins re-election.

All hell again breaks loose in Gaza; Obama asserts Israel’s right to defend itself.

Hamas launches medium-range missiles, built with Iranian support, that reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; Israel’s anti-missile technology fails to stop them.

At the behest of the Emir of Qatar, Egypt’s President Morsi brokers Israeli-Palestinian cease fire. Obama and Clinton praise Morsi; the head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood denounces Morsi’s peacemaking efforts.

In the Palestinian Territories, Hamas and the US-backed Fatah emerge from the latest fighting in closer solidarity with one another.

Morsi seizes autocratic powers, though he remains under ultimate control of the Egyptian military, which receives the bulk of its funding from the US government; protests ensue in Egypt.

Now some speculation about possible connections:

Maybe Obama endorsed Morsi’s move. The Egyptian military already constituted the final authority in Egyptian government, and the military is financed largely by the US. The US and the Egyptian military promised Morsi support in an internal power grab against competing political factions if he brokered the Gaza peace.

It’s likely that the Egyptian Brotherhood will soon be placated, in part because Morsi is one of their own, and in part because Hamas — a Brotherhood affiliate — has acceded to the truce. Another reason to expect renewed Egyptian Brotherhood support of Morsi is that the Emir of Qatar, who inserted Morsi into the peace-brokering role, has been a strong financial and military supporter of the Brotherhood’s ascent in Egypt, as well as in Palestine, Libya, and Syria.

The Saudis used to be the primary financial backers of Hamas. After Hamas gained political and military control of Gaza, the US put the squeeze on the Saudis to cut off support for Hamas. Hamas subsequently turned to both Iran and Qatar. Arguably the Palestinians have more in common with Qatar than with Iran — Qatar and Hamas are Sunni Arab; Iran is Shi’ite non-Arab.

Egypt too is predominantly Sunni Arab; so is Saudi Arabia. Maybe there is a move afoot to consolidate Sunni power in the region. Arguably the Sunnis, and even the Brotherhood, are increasingly more focused on secular control over their societies than on imposing religious fundamentalism. And they are prepared to cooperate with the West in solidifying their power base. Here’s an analysis from Beirut tracing the secular transition of Sunni Islam.

Syria’s President Assad is Shi’ite, allied with the predominantly Shi’ite Iran. But the majority of the Syrian population is Sunni. Shia-majority Iraq is already under US control. If Assad is toppled and the Brotherhood or some other Sunni-dominated faction takes political control in Syria, then Iran is isolated.

Maybe the US government encouraged Fatah to reach out to Hamas in an attempt to solidify the Sunni dominance in Palestine. This Palestinian alliance will shift influence away from Iran and toward Egypt and Qatar — and the US. Israel is persuaded to go along with this new pro-Western Sunni alliance as long as the mid-range missiles stop coming toward their cities. Since those missiles represent Iranian influence, there is a good chance that the Brotherhood will stop the launches. The short-range missiles are just a distraction: they never hit anything, and Israel’s defense system is capable of knocking them down if need be.

Of course I have no way of knowing whether this is an accurate way of connecting the dots. If it is, then a more stable, less one-sided Palestinian solution might be getting closer, with Israel, Palestine, and Egypt all allied with the US against Iran and Assad (if he’s still around). Can these states generate enough “elite rhetoric” to combat their mutual antagonisms in support a new pragmatic alliance in the Middle East?



  1. Interesting! That’s certainly one way of looking at the overall strategy. The US has been on the back foot ever since knocking off their long term ally Saddam, which had destabilized the entire region. It may be the best that can be got out of the mess in the medium term from a US point of view. The strategy has been perhaps sensed by both China and Russia who have apparently ‘drawn the line’ at Syria and may explain the US’s great reluctance to be seen to have anything to do with the Syrian civil war.

    I think Obama originally was a moral supporter of Palestine (in line with much of black theology) but the break that began with him giving his ex-pastor Jeremy Wright the boot, has now been set in stone and he’s perhaps even more virulently for Israel than his predecessors. Looking back at your US presidents, Carter and then Clinton have been the most even handed, but I think Hilary is definitely of the opposite camp. Of course, it’s obvious that both Carter and Clinton openly voiced their views only after they were in office, Obama almost lost it for not realizing that, and Hilary will never make that mistake anyway as she has always been a hawk and a great supporter of Israel.

    It may play out differently though. Yes, the Brotherhood is Sunni as as are Hamas and Fatah, while Hizbollah are Shia, but Iran (Shia) champions the Palestinians against the greater evil of Israel-US. Whether the common support for Palestine amongst Shia and Sunni in the ME may eventually form a bridge between these two is the big question – and the biggest fear for the West. So far, the divide-and-conquer approach began by the Brits (who, don’t forget, created the whole ME mess) is working, and Sunni and Shia hate each other almost as much as they hate Israel.


    Comment by Sam Carr — 27 November 2012 @ 1:46 am

  2. I like your analysis, Sam. I agree that driving the Sunni-Shia wedge in deeper has been a long-term Western strategy, notably including support for Saddam against Iran. I recall an interview with Joe Biden reminiscing about the early days of the Iraq War. GW Bush thought the US could get in and out of there in a matter of weeks; Biden, then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped persuade GW that dividing the country along ethnic lines — Sunni, Shia, Kurd — was the long-term conquest objective and that it might take ten years to accomplish. Obama’s and Clinton’s public responses to Morsi’s power consolidation have been notable. We’re concerned; be careful — not unlike their response to Netanyahu’s most recent incursions into Gaza.

    To be sure, this is only one way of connecting the dots. I suspect that the CIA draws up a variety of alternative scenarios that might play out, then they “invest” in a few of the more promising developments. This I presume is what’s happening in Syria. The US government might even support positions that seem mutually contradictory as a kind of “hedge.” Plan two moves ahead, not ten; exert leverage to move situations in the desired direction; change horses in mid-stream if the current shifts.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 November 2012 @ 7:23 am

    • Unfortunately, religious+race hatreds are the absolute worst combination (and therefore the easiest to exploit) and the hardest to overcome. Still it is possible, at least to some extent, though perhaps an uneasy truce is about the best that can be had in the long term, and what eventually brings folks to the table seems to be some critical amount of blood spilled. Look at Ireland, or even the Brits vs the rest of Europe, Rwanda & the DRC, and so many still brewing trouble spots around the globe. South-Central America seems to be finally coming to its senses. What will it take to bring the Arab nations together? Perhaps Bush’s (and now Obama’s) wars were the first step?

      Another significant factor is that there have been, and still are, different camps in US foreign policy, the State Dept vs the CIA and then the Pentagon in the background, all of which have to be catered to by the Prez. Each of these players is not monolithic, as you point out, having a number of different scenarios cooking, and playing the angles as they develop. We saw the least of this when Cheney and Rumsfeld were dominant, but even then it was there, perhaps most notably in how Pakistan was handled. Now that confusion has really cost the US dearly, and it still seems to fester.

      What will be the final cost in blood before the various opponents realize that they are hurting themselves more than their chosen enemies? If history is any guide, we still have a ways to go!


      Comment by Sam Carr — 27 November 2012 @ 11:10 am

  3. It looks like Israel intends to be a dick about it, planning more West Bank settlements in the aftermath of the UN’s recognition of the Palestinian state. One of the sites cuts off the Palestinian West Bank from Jerusalem. And how come Egypt’s President Morsi is now called Mursi?


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 November 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/world/middleeast/israel-moves-to-expand-settlements-in-east-jerusalem.html?pagewanted=1&ref=middleeast&_r=0

    Israel is almost unbearably depressing, just to think about it, and that’s got to be nothing to what it is. Inane thoughts about Israel include (first day in Polynesia) “Why on earth with THIS would anybody want to go to Israel?” and that the weird place reminds me both of North Korea and the Tea Party. Other inane impressions include that it always reminds me of the taste of salt from Dead Sea. These saline lakes seem to project themselves–the Great Salt Lake you can taste when you think of Mormons.

    I always remember that John Dunne wrote about visiting Jerusalem, which he hated, and couldn’t keep from noting that he had never seen such poorly-dressed population (and he was not exactly a sartorial type himself, with scruffy sweaters, etc.)

    Trivia, but the thought of being in Tel Aviv sounds like it would feel like total prison. I can’t think of a thing about Israeli culture that holds any attraction at all for me, not even getting into their impossible central position in the major international messes.


    Comment by Patrick Mullins — 1 December 2012 @ 11:41 am

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