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US Threat to Palestinians : Change Leadership And We Cut Funds

Mercredi, 26 janvier 2011 - 6h57 AM

mercredi 26 janvier 2011


Obama administration told Palestinian Authority its leaders must remain in office if it wants to retain US financial backing

By Seumas Milne and Ian Black

January 24, 2011 « The Guardian »

— The Obama administration has privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal, let alone any repetition of the Hamas election victory that briefly gave the Islamists control of the Palestinian Authority five years ago.
That is despite the fact that the democratic legitimacy of both the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is strongly contested among Palestinians, and there are no plans for new elections in either the West Bank or Gaza.

« The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority, » the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as telling Fayyad in November 2008. Most of the PA’s funding comes from the US and European Union.

Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators : « Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him. » The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.

The US consulate in Jerusalem reported to Washington in December 2009 that « despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah remains the only viable alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future, » according to a cable released by Wikileaks.

The US government’s private determination to use its financial and military leverage to keep the existing regime in place — while publicly continuing to maintain that Palestinians are free to choose their own leaders — echoes the Bush administration’s veto on attempts to create a Palestinian national unity administration after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

Unlike the PLO, Hamas rejects negotiations, except for a long-term ceasefire, and refuses to recognise Israel. Supported by Iran and Syria, the group is classed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU.

The leaked documents quote General Keith Dayton, the US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority who was in charge of building up PA security forces until last October. He warned Palestinian leaders in 2007 about rumours that the « Fatah old guard » were undermining Fayyad, who he confirmed as the linchpin of US strategy in the West Bank.

« As much as President Bush thinks Abu Mazen is important, » Dayton told them, « without Fayyad, the US will lift its hand from the PA and give up on Abu Mazen. » Unlike Abbas, Fayyad – a US-trained economist who formerly worked for the World Bank and and the IMF – is not a member of the secular Fatah party.

Abbas was elected president in 2005, but his mandate expired in 2009 and is no longer recognised by Hamas, among others, as the legitimate Palestinian leader. Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas after the Hamas takeover of Gaza but his legitimacy is also strongly contested as his appointment was never confirmed as required by the PA’s parliament.

The Obama administration’s determination to keep control of who runs the PA underlines the continuity of policy from the Bush years. In the runup to the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was revealed in leaked US official documents to have as good as instructed Abbas to « collapse » the then joint Fatah-Hamas national unity government.

The dependence of the existing PA and PLO leadership on US support is well understood by those leaders, as the documents underline. Referring to Obama’s attempt to kickstart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2009, US state department official David Hale told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat : « We need the help of friends like you. »

Erekat replied that the US president’s « success is my survival ».

The US consulate in Jerusalem reported in December 2009 : « It is axiomatic amongst our contacts that Fatah remains the only near-term alternative to Hamas in Palestinian politics. Despite the toll of corruption and stagnant peace process, our contacts believe that only Fatah has the national liberation credentials, breadth of appeal and organisational structure to mobilise and win a Palestinian election for the foreseeable future ... Despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah rermains the only viable alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future. »