The day after the armed forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shared credit for the bombing of a bakery in the Israeli port city of Eilat, which claimed the lives of three young Israelis, President Bush announced an aid package to Abbas’ armed forces.
Following that Bush announcement, Israel’s leading news internet magazine, a Hebrew news blog located at http://nfc.co.il, ran an unusual newsworthy headline: “Terror Attacks with U.S. funding.” The news item noted that Abbas’ armed forces had been strongly armed by Egypt and by Jordan in the past few months, in coordination with the U.S. government, which has made it a matter of policy to strengthen Abbas. Egypt armed 1,900 troops of Abbas’ militias, while Jordan armed 3,000 troops loyal to Abbas.
Senior White House official Elliott Abrams made it clear that since Hamas took formal control of the Palestinian Authority in January 2006, the U.S. would do everything in its power to support and arm the forces loyal to Abbas, even though Abbas has made it his policy goal to unite his armed forces of Fatah with the armed forces of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all of the Palestinian organizations still at war with Israel.
To that end, the American government helped establish training camps for Abbas’ armed forces in Ramallah and in Jericho, with the help of the British government.
However, senior policymakers at the Pentagon have been critical of the Bush administration’s decision to arm Abbas’ troops. One Pentagon official has told the Israeli media that “not only will Abbas’ troops turn on Israel – they will also turn on Jordan, the majority of whose population remain Palestinian Arabs.”
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was quoted by Pentagon sources as advising President Bush that any and all attempts to arm Abbas against Islamic forces would also increase enmity toward U.S. interests in Islamic countries and not serve U.S. interests in the war in Iraq. Pentagon officials also note that senior policy advisors at the CIA also warned against the Bush program to aid Abbas and were overruled.
Senior officials of the Israel National Security Council have also stated, off the record, that any U.S. attempt to arm Abbas would only strengthen, unite and inspire the Islamic forces under the leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who would see this as a blatant attempt of U.S./Western/Christian interests to establish a new imperial stronghold in the Middle East.
Ironically, the reason why Hamas assumed power in the Palestinian Authority was the Bush administration’s insistence that democratic elections take place in the Palestinian Arab entity. While both Abbas’ Fatah faction and the Islamic factions maintain the same goals of regaining all of Palestine, and not just the West Bank and Gaza, the whereabouts of the six billion dollars of foreign aid and the mystery of the missing billions from Arafat’s bank account have created a situation that no amount of aid to Abbas will ever win credibility for Abbas in the Palestinian Authority constituency. Abbas is and was the protégé of Yassir Arafat, and he is rightfully viewed by the Palestinian Arab people as the man most responsible for the graft and corruption in the Palestinian public domain. After all, stealing from the public trust is viewed by Islam as stealing from Allah.
George W. Bush, a deeply religious person, should understand that his choice to back a movement that is most closely associated with rampant corruption cannot be a wise or moral choice for his legacy to be respected in the Middle East.
©The Bulletin 2007