by Khaled Abu Toameh
There is growing concern in Ramallah, Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai that the U.S. Administration is working to prevent the collapse of Hamas.
"The Americans mistakenly think that moderate political Islam, which is represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, will be able to combat radical Islam. The Americans are trying to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to the region." — Palestinian official, Ramallah.
The Iranians, with whom the U.S. is now negotiating on nuclear weapons -- amid fears in the Middle East that the U.S. will capitulate to Tehran's demands if it has not effectively capitulated to them already -- have now joined Qatar and Turkey in opposing any attempt to confiscate Hamas's weapons.
The Paris conference was actually a spit in the face to the anti-Hamas forces in the Arab world. By failing to invite the Palestinian Authority to the conference, Kerry indicated that he does not see any role for Abbas and his loyalists in a post-Hamas Gaza Strip.
The U.S. Administration's main objective in cease-fire talks is clearly to empower Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch, Hamas.
This is how the Palestinian Authority [PA] sees the recent efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
It is no secret that the PA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would like to see an end to Hamas's rule over the Gaza Strip. Moreover, they seem to support the idea of disarming Hamas as part of any agreement to end the current crisis.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been issuing strong condemnations of the Israeli "aggression" on the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks, is hoping that the war will result in the return of his loyalists to control the Gaza Strip or, at least to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Abbas and his Arab allies are not going to shed a tear if Hamas is removed from power and the Gaza Strip is demilitarized at the end of the war.
There is growing concern in Ramallah, Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai, however, that the U.S. Administration is now working to prevent the collapse of Hamas.
This concern was reinforced by Secretary of State John Kerry's recent tour of the region. His trip ended with last week's Paris meeting to discuss the Israel-Hamas war.
That Kerry chose to invite Qatar and Turkey -- the only two countries that support Hamas -- to the conference was received with anger and shock by the Palestinian Authority and its Arab allies.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shares a laugh with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiyah during cease-fire negotiations in Paris, on July 26, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
The Paris conference was actually a spit in the face of anti-Hamas forces in the Arab world.
By failing to invite the PA to the conference, Kerry indicated that he does not see any role for Abbas and his loyalists in a post-Hamas Gaza Strip. Kerry chose to conduct indirect negotiations with Hamas through their patrons in Doha and Ankara.
By ignoring Egypt, which considers Hamas a threat to its national security and has been conducting its own war against the Islamist movement over the past year, Kerry sent a message to the Arabs and Muslims according to which the U.S. Administration is on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies.
"Kerry is exploiting the war to restore the influence of Muslim Brotherhood in the region," charged a Palestinian official in Ramallah. "The Americans mistakenly think that moderate political Islam, represented by Muslim Brotherhood, would be able to combat radical Islam. The Americans are trying to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to the region."
Another Palestinian official accused President Barack Obama and Kerry of organizing a "Friends of Hamas" conference in Paris. "How can you hold such a conference without inviting representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt?" he asked. "Qatar and Turkey are happy to see the Obama Administration help them in their effort to save Hamas and embolden Muslim Brotherhood."
Alarmed by Kerry's alliance with Qatar and Turkey, Abbas flew earlier this week to Jeddah for emergency talks with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz.
According to a senior Abbas advisor, the Palestinian Authority president urged the Saudi monarch to exert pressure on the Obama Administration to keep Qatar and Turkey out of the picture.
The advisor said that Saudi Arabia voiced support for demands to demilitarize the Gaza Strip as part of any cease-fire agreement. "Demilitarizing the Gaza Strip would mean the end of Hamas," the advisor said. "The Egyptians, Saudis and other Arab countries also share this view. They are also upset with Kerry's effort to rely on Qatar and Turkey to solve the crisis. These two countries are interested in keeping Hamas in power."
Abbas and the PA continue to insist that any solution to the current crisis be achieved only through Egypt, which is interested in seeing an end to Hamas' rule over the Gaza Strip.
But the Obama Administration obviously does not share this view. It has chosen a different path -- one that would result in keeping Hamas in power and empowering the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of moderate, pro-Western Arabs and Muslims.
Palestinian officials in Ramallah made it clear this week that they no longer trust the US Administration because of Kerry's attempt to "appease" Qatar and Turkey at the expense of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.
"Someone needs to remind Kerry that Qatar is not the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians," said a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah.
Another official, Ahmed Majdalani, warned that the Palestinians and Egyptians wouldn't allow Kerry to "bypass" their leaders and meddle in the internal affairs of the Palestinian people.
By siding with Qatar and Turkey, the Obama Administration is effectively expressing its opposition to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the Obama Administration now finds itself on the same side with Iran, which is also vehemently opposed to disarming Hamas.
By turning its back on the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Obama Administration has paved the way for Iranian intervention in the conflict.
The Iranians, with whom the U.S. is negotiating on nuclear weapons -- amid fears in the Middle East that the U.S. will capitulate to Tehran's demands if it has not effectively capitulated to them already -- have now joined Qatar and Turkey in opposing any attempt to confiscate Hamas's weapons.
On Wednesday, a senior Iranian military official, Gen. Qassem Slimani, issued an unprecedented warning against any attempt to disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
"Disarming the (Palestinian) resistance groups is an illusion and it will not happen," he said.
Such a warning would not have been issued had the Iranians not sensed weakness on the part of the Obama Administration. Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and their patrons in Qatar, Turkey and Iran are clearly satisfied with the way the Obama Administration is handling the conflict.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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