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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blaming Hamas Sidesteps Regional Realities

Here's a fascinating article from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that argues that the reason there is no progress in the 'peace process' isn't because of Hamas. It's because of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Shocked and angered by the ascent of the militant Islamist group, many in the west have evoked an all-too rosy picture of the past. They overlook the fact that although there have been opportunities to further the peace process in recent years (such as the election of Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza), there has been very little tangible progress.


In this context, the US has been unable to convince the two countries considered its closest regional allies -- Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- to follow through with their commitments to the road map, apart from occasional assurances and rhetoric.

Since Saudi Arabia is committed to the Islamic political agenda, it should not surprise anyone that its pledges to the US contradict its real position regarding support for the Palestinian resistance and Hamas in particular. It has agreed to a large assistance package to the Palestinian Authority, which comes after the Arab League spearheaded the effort to unite the Arab world to fund Hamas under the banner of "saving the Palestinians".

Similarly, although Egypt signed the first peace accord with Israel and has played the role of mediator, its policy remains complex. Since a large part of the regime's legitimacy is based on its support of the Palestinian cause, it is fully dedicated to the "legitimate" national armed resistance. So, while the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, the regime gave full political recognition to Hamas -- which is part of the Brotherhood's transnational network -- even before the Palestinian legislative elections were held.

Accordingly, the "Egyptian-led mediation" has always revolved around reaching a truce between Israelis and Palestinians -- which remained fragile -- or, more recently, betting on giving Hamas time in order to preserve the regional status quo. This position is reflected continuously through the single voice of the state-controlled press and media which exclude any divergent views or opinions on this issue. Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, recently admitted in an Arabic-language interview: "Egypt has never pushed Hamas to recognise Israel." In light of this, it cannot be said that Hamas contradicts the mainstream policies of Arab governments, either radical or moderate.

Anyone still think the US should continue providing foreign aid to Egypt?


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