This report carefully documents the public State Dept. position vs. the public White House position regarding the “rehabilitation” of Hamas, which could hardly be more different. With the same consistency that Boucher and Ereli (State Dept. Spokesmen) use to describe the “capabilities” of Hamas, White House Spokesman McClellan explicitly demands the dismantlement of Hamas, and reports that this is the President’s position.
Among the potential explanations for this:
1. The president is aware of this distinction and has approved the policy. In such case, either:
a. The State Dept’s position is designed to temporarily appease Arab/Islamic states (i.e. Saudis) as the price that must be paid for counter-terrorism cooperation.
b. McClellan’s position is designed to distract an outraged public from the new policy of rehab for Hamas.
2. The president is not aware of and/or not in approval of, the State Dept.’s plans to send Hamas into rehab.
In the case of option #2, the State Dept’s policy is the following:
1. To send a message to Arab states and Islamic terror groups: ‘The president is only here for 4 years (8 at the most). We were here before him, and we’ll be here after he leaves. We agree with you, he’s a wild cowboy. He also doesn’t know what goes on in our mid-level bureaucracy that never reaches his office. Just stick with us and we’ll find a way to help pull you through.’ It is, of course, also a sly message to EU states: ‘See guys, we have more in common than you thought!’ (However, my question is: By suggesting support for Hamas, isn’t the State Dept. itself helping to undermine the PA? Why would they do that?)
2. The State Dept. is simply doing the job of American diplomacy: Laying the groundwork for continued relationship with whomever takes power in the future, so that relations with a group/nation are maintained even when the leadership changes. (It is possible, then, that the President has approved of this). In this case, the State Dept. has astutely noted that the PA is on the fritz, and that Hamas & Co. are riding higher. Therefore, State Dept. is simply hedging bets and playing an even hand. If the PA disintegrates and Hamas takes effective control, State Dept. will insist on maintaining relations/contact with Hamas (which will probably just take over the PA, possibly without even renaming it).
The key point: By endorsing Hamas, the State Dept. is saying that no matter who controls the Palestinians, the State Dept. will endorse a Palestinian state anyway. The PA/PLO is now no longer the only suitable authority to rule/establish a Palestinian state. The Palestinian people deserve a state no matter what, and no matter who runs it. In other words, Hamas is now conceptually simply another political group vying for control over a “country”. That country is real inasmuch as it is comprised of the Palestinian people. In other words, the State Dept. has already effectively declared a “state of Palestine”. The only question for them is which political party exercises the most control over it.
“USER’S GUIDE” The statements from the White House (specifically McClellan, and sometimes Bush) come at the end of the document, after all of the quotes from State Dept. officials. These are not all of the quotes (by a longshot!), just some of what I feel are the most critical excerpts.
CRITICAL NOTE: McClellan talks regularly about dismantling the terrorist groups and “infrastructure” of Al Qaeda, and also talks about dismantling the terrorist groups and “infrastructure” of Palestinian groups. It seems that when he says “dismantling terrorist infrastructure” he means the same thing whether it’s about al-Qaeda or about the Palestinians. Obviously very different from the State Dep’t interpretation of “infrastructure”.
Note two fascinating interviews in particular: On July 1, and July 2, 2003, Powell did interviews with two conservative anchors. One was Brit Hume on FOX News, and the other was with Sean Hannity on ABC Radio (who also works for FOX News). In BOTH interviews, Powell inserted this idea of “dismantling capabilities” and NEITHER of the hosts noticed it.
Conclusion: The hosts were not sensitive enough to realize what Powell is proposing, AND the very notion of rehabilitating Hamas is so foreign to them that they could not have even conceived of it. Additionally, this was almost certainly a trial balloon effort by Powell to see if popular conservative commentators would catch-on to the plan. Neither did. Yet.
Note: In this paper:
“Sec. Powell”: Denotes a Statement by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
“Mr. Boucher”: Denotes a Statement by U.S. State Department Spokesman Amb. Richard Boucher
“Mr. Philip Reeker”: Denotes a Statement by U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Amb. Philip Reeker
“Q.” or “Question:”: Denotes a question or statement by a journalist.
June 6, 2003
Mr. Boucher: We will work closely with them to ensure that groups like Hamas cannot conduct terrorist and violent action. We’ve always said it’s not just a matter of what they say — they say or don’t say, it’s not a matter of what they promise or don’t promise, it’s not a matter of what they say they will or they won’t do, it’s a matter of what they can and cannot do. And we all need to work to make sure that they cannot carry out these kinds of — this kind of violent action that they’ve taken in the past.
Question: Richard, is it your assessment that under present conditions, Prime Minister Abu Mazen could, in fact, take any decisive action to disarm and disband Hamas and Islamic Jihad?
Mr. Boucher: I would say that he is — he and his security people themselves have said that they think there are actions that they can take to help quell the violence; that they are committed to those actions, you heard him explain, not just for the sake of the peace process, but also for the sake of establishing a single Palestinian Authority that actually had authority and didn’t have to fight rivaled armed groups in order to maintain its status as a government, in order to build a Palestinian state the Palestinians want.
It’s not a matter of what they decide to do today or do tomorrow, or declare today or declare tomorrow. It’s what they can do. And eventually we have to find a process that’s going to eliminate their ability to carry out violent acts, because otherwise we’re going to have to deal with this on a day-to-day basis, what — how they feel when they wake up in the morning.
June 12, 2003
Mr. Boucher: The point in this situation is the violent groups; the violent groups — Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad — they need to be stopped. There are things the Israelis can do, there are things the Palestinians can do, there are things the Arabs can do. And we all need to be working to stop those violent groups from carrying out these kind of activities.
Mr. Boucher: The — it’s important for everybody to do what they can to stop the ability of these groups to carry out violence. We’ve made clear that they need to be — their capabilities need to be stopped.
June 13, 2003
Mr. Boucher: f we’re going to end with the violence at some point, we have to see all the parties cutting off money, cutting off support, cutting off the ability to operate, cutting off the ability of violent groups to challenge the authority that needs to be vested in the Palestinian Authority, in the new government.
June 16, 2003
Mr. Boucher: A cease-fire is a step along the way to dismantling their abilities, may be a good idea. It may be a step along the way. But that’s about as much as I can describe to you about it.
Q. So that Hamas, in effect, should be involved in its own dismantling, though.
Mr. Boucher: I’m not going to comment further on this. I think I’ve explained our position on this. I don’t want you to go making assumptions about the word “cease-fire.” You’ll have to ask the parties what