Page 2 of 2 Document details 'US' plan to
sink Hamas By Mark Perry and Paul Woodward
escalation, as long as the security
control of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah is
on a firm basis". The plan also counts on the
support of the EU and World Bank.
"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
should propose, in consultation with the World
Bank and the European Union, a plan that defines
specific sectors and projects that are in need of
financing, and that will show useful and tangible
results on the
in the space of six to nine months, centering on
the alleviation of poverty and unemployment," the
plan notes. "And since some projects will take
more than nine months, there should be a guarantee
of adequate results within the nine months. This
is so as to guarantee the usefulness of these
projects before the elections."
Anticipating that Abbas' popularity would
now be soaring - and money to his supporters
flowing through his office - the plan proposes
that Israel act to enhance Abbas' credibility
further by removing roadblocks and barricades in
the West Bank and easing Palestinian access to
Gaza. "Abbas will need to be supplied with the
means, both material and legal, to govern and to
strengthen his credibility and legitimacy, so that
he can comfortably call for parliamentary
elections by the beginning of autumn 2007."
Perhaps the most interesting part of the
action plan is in its authors' apparent need to
cover up the fact that it is being proposed by the
US and its Arab - Jordanian and Egyptian - allies.
The plan states that it is designed to be
presented to the Palestinians as something for
them to support and to obtain the agreement of the
United States and the Arab quartet, as a first
This would give Israel and the
Europeans assurance that Abbas is taking the lead.
The deception would be complete and US hands would
be clean: the "action plan" would not be a US plan
to undermine the Palestinian unity government - it
would be Abbas' own plan.
role On May 4, Haaretz published the US
security plan for the West Bank and Gaza, which
the newspaper had received from Israeli government
officials on April 25. The document - authored by US
General Keith Dayton, US Ambassador to Israel Dick
Jones, and Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob
Walles - took more than a month to write,
according to an American diplomat, and was begun
in mid-March soon after the announcement of the
formation of a Palestinian unity government.
The timing of the writing of the Haaretz
document roughly coincides then with the "action
plan" as written for the approval of Abbas, and
indeed the two appear connected, either as
interrelated plans or, perhaps more likely,
reflecting an ongoing struggle inside Washington
over who controls Middle East policymaking.
The goal of the US-sponsored "Benchmarks"
document is to set a schedule for the removal of
Israeli roadblocks and the opening of travel and
trade passages in the occupied territories. But
the document also contains a strong secondary
component, which requires that Israel "approve
requests for weapons, munitions and equipment
required by defense forces" loyal to Abbas.
The plan's components envisage that
Israelis and Palestinians will engage in a
coordinated series of actions that will expand PA
security control to all sectors of Gaza and the
West Bank. Mohammad Dahlan, the newly named head
of Abbas' National Security Council, will be
charged with drawing up and implementing a
security plan that will ensure this. Israel will
then slowly ease travel restrictions in specific
areas of the West Bank according to a detailed
But there are two key components
of the program - first, that Israel will approve
and support the transfer of "armaments, ammunition
and equipment" to Dahlan's forces at Dayton's
direction and at his specific request and that, in
exchange, the PA security forces will implement a
program that will suppress Qassam rocket fire into
According to the "Benchmarks"
document, Dahlan would be required to develop a
plan against Qassam rockets with the support of
President Abbas by no later than June 21, and the
forces under Dahlan must be deployed to problem
areas no later than that date. The Palestinian
forces would also be required to prevent arms
smuggling in the Rafah area in coordination with
Israel - a long-standing sore point with senior
Israel Defense Forces officials since the Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza.
Within 24 hours of
the "Benchmarks" document's publication, Abbas
endorsed it. But the plan was swiftly dismissed by
Hamas. The organization's Damascus-based leader,
Khalid Meshaal, declared that the proposal was "a
farce", as it implied that Israeli checkpoints
would only be removed as the Palestinians slowly
ratcheted down their resistance to the occupation.
"The equation has now become dismantling
the checkpoints in exchange for ending the
Palestinian resistance," Meshaal said. The Israeli
government also hesitated, saying that it would
study the proposal. Israeli defense officials took
a much harder line, saying that the adoption of
the plan would harm Israeli security.
Washington moved quickly to reassure its
ally. The plan merely promoted "suggestions and
ideas that we have circulated", a State Department
spokesman said. "It's not any kind of formal
agreement nor is it something that is being
enforced on anybody." Four days later, a US
Embassy official in Tel Aviv said it was not a
"take it or leave it" document, but "an informal
draft" of "suggestions" that could "help
facilitate discussion, engagement and action".
In the wake of the Majd incident and the
publication of the "Benchmarks" document in
Haaretz, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
abruptly canceled her trip to Israel, citing
"political turmoil" in the Israeli government. In
truth, the real turmoil is in Washington, where
successive attempts to jump-start a peace process
have in effect been short-circuited by Rice's
diplomatic fecklessness ("We just don't think she
has the president's mandate," an Israeli official
notes), or by the White House's willful disregard
of Rice's efforts to show America's allies that
the US will move to resolve the
just not in charge of your Middle East policy,"
one Israeli official commented. "Every time she
turns around, Elliott Abrams is slapping her down.
It's embarrassing." The embarrassment has now
In a breakfast meeting at
the White House last Thursday, Abrams told a group
of Jewish Republicans that they should not put too
much stock in efforts to pressure Israel to reach
an agreement with the Palestinians. "He said that
pressure on Israel was all for show," a
congressional staffer familiar with the meeting
said, "and that it was being done just to satisfy
the Europeans and Arabs.
"He said, 'You
know, we have to show that we're doing something.
You really shouldn't worry about it.'"
Abrams, according to a report on the same
meeting that appeared in Haaretz, said the talks
among Rice, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert on prospective negotiations was just
"process for the sake of process". The Haaretz
report noted that "some of the attendees
understood Abrams' comments as an assurance that
the peace initiative promoted by Rice doesn't have
the full backing of President George W Bush".
Reports of Abrams' comments brought an
immediate White House response: "It is inaccurate
to suggest that the White House and State
Department are at odds on this issue, for the
entire administration - including Mr Abrams - is
committed to pursuing it [Rice's peace initiative]
and the rest of the president's agenda."
Despite this, it is difficult to come to
the conclusion that Rice's program - enforcing
Israeli compliance with dropping barriers in the
West Bank and easing access to Gaza - will be
implemented while on the other hand the US program
to undermine Hamas seems destined to continue. And
in the end, Washington observers note, it is
likely that in the current Abrams-Rice tussle,
Abrams will win - and the Palestinians will lose.
Mark Perry is the co-director of
Forum, a Beirut-based organization
dedicated to providing an opening to political
Islam. He is a political consultant in Washington,
DC. Paul Woodward is the managing editor of
the Conflicts Forum website and also creator and
editor of the foreign affairs blog War in Context.
(Copyright 2007 Mark Perry and Paul
Woodward. Used by permission.)