Starving Hamas

| Wed Feb. 15, 2006 2:23 PM PST

This seems like a strange way to think about democracy in the Middle East:

The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.Right. "Vote any way you want, really; we'll just make sure you starve if you happen to vote the wrong way..." I'm no fan of Hamas, but this sort of thing seems pretty unlikely to encourage any sort of "moderation" from the governing party. Maybe that's the point. It's not a hugely novel approach either. In 1990, during the elections in Nicaragua, the United States let voters know in no uncertain terms that massive amounts of aid would be forthcoming if they voted the Sandinistas out of office and voted in the U.S.-backed Violeta Chamorro. (And the Reagan administration certainly found ways to "destabilize" the leftist Nicaraguan government during the 1980s.) And all Nicaragua got for going along with this plan was the opportunity to be a guinea pig in a grand neoliberal experiment that devastated the country. Maybe the Palestinians should take note.

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