Mr. President, Inspire Parties to Conflict Overseas, But Don’t Believe Everything You Are Hearing

President Obama and Senator Mitchell
President Obama and Senator Mitchell

I was concerned by a recent description in the New York Times of the inner workings of Fatah, and the questions facing the United States and Israel. The author writes as if he accepts everything that Israeli leaders tell him at face value.  Speaking about the question of a Fatah meeting in order to reform the movement and thus present a better challenge to Hamas at the polls, he writes:

For Israel and the United States, the problem is equally vexing. They have an interest in helping the nationalists to reform and hold their congress. But they also have to decide how much to help the new leaders, some of whom may end up becoming opponents if the peace negotiating process fails.

Oh really? Endless interviews with Fatah activists over the years come back to one theme: the leadership of Israel, in order to hold onto Judea and Samaria for as long as possible, and to delay as long as possible a viable Palestinian national movement, has systematically empowered the Hamas leadership to rise, even as moderates and honest and noble people  in Fatah were imprisoned, hunted like Rajoub, hounded like Nusseibeh and Husseini, exiled like Awad, or assassinated like Abu Jihad. This has been the tried and true methodology of no peace, no war, divide and conquer. Now we have a highly divided Fatah, where the corrupt have been allowed and encouraged to flourish, extremists discredit it, and moderates who are honest have been sidelined. This is perfect if you want a war in perpetuity in order to hold on to Judea and Samaria by force, at all costs.

Mr. President I agree with your compassionate approach to all parties to a conflict, and an appreciation of their legitimate needs. Perfect. But don’t believe anything that you hear or read without seeing the facts for yourself, and having George Mitchell continue to interview as wide a spectrum of parties as possible, as he has been doing. Judge the situation by the facts on the ground, and the behavior of all parties, that is all that matters. And beware of manipulations.

The same is true in Afghanistan. I was disturbed also by the timing of your troop surge. I understand your method, and your pressure on the Taliban. But just because the generals say that they can do this or that with increased “pain” does not mean that this is what should occur right now. Send the troops, but do not permit the infliction of pain without making sure you know and understand the latest options on the ground. Things are changing rapidly and opportunities are arising as remarkable fissures occur inside the Taliban–in part due to your revolutionary overtures. Not only are there more parties coming forward for indirect peace talks, there are Taliban who are serious about a new philosophy entirely but are being attacked by the Americans and the Taliban leadership at the same time, as I alluded to in an earlier post. Give this a chance to evolve, at least in Afghanistan. The generals will give you a plan for killing, or at best winning through killing.

In both countries the biggest problem is that the liberal secularism of the United States is associated with corruption and injustice, both in Palestine and in Afghanistan, and that is what emboldens the extremists. We must not impose artificial elections anywhere, but we must stand with the parties that stand for less corruption and more justice, or we must abandon them.

Your job is to win over, not to win, to negotiate a new path for Afghanistan, and that means keeping an ear close to the ground in all hot zones, like Afghanistan–and Palestine/Israel. This way your will continue to inspire a global shift away from violence, which I believe is your destiny.

© Marc Gopin