Analysis: No Results From Hamas Boycott

By STEVEN GUTKIN
The Associated Press
Saturday, October 14, 2006; 5:37 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The international boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government has yielded no results, and as poverty soars and civil war looms, time and options are running out for Israel, the Palestinians and the international community.

The radical Islamic group that took power last March is no closer to moderating itself and no closer to falling.

"All the crises that we have been through in the past seven months proved even to the Americans that there is no way that this government is going to fall by economic pressure," said Palestinian Cabinet minister Abdel Rahman Zeidan.

It is now clear Hamas will not accept the No. 1 condition for doing business with it: recognizing Israel's right to exist. And the international community is not about to accept Hamas's proposed solution: to call a long-term truce, but without abandoning its ideological goal of eliminating Israel.

It has also become clear that the person calling the shots in Hamas is not Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh or anyone else in the West Bank or Gaza. It's the exiled Khaled Mashaal, the hard-line ideologue sheltered by Syria, funded by Iran and in control of the money flow to Hamas.

Moderate Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most recently Qatar have been trying to defuse the crisis in the Palestinian territories, offering various proposals that would allow Hamas to meet international conditions while saving face.

Mashaal has rebuffed each of those initiatives, according to senior officials of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. That leaves him squarely in the camp of Syria and Iran, the two countries that sponsored Hezbollah in its 34-day war with Israel this summer.

At a news conference in Damascus on Thursday, Mashaal said again that Hamas will not recognize Israel.

Jacob Walles, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, acknowledged last week that the pressure on Hamas has not worked and said Palestinians need a new government.

"We've been looking for the last six months to see if there was any sign of a change. We don't see any sign," he told Palestinian reporters.

The international community's latest strategy to defuse the crisis involves a $816 million donation from Europe and a new U.S. push to let Gaza export this season's harvest of cherry tomatoes, strawberries and carnations. But easing the economic pressure could also prolong Hamas' hold on power.

The failure of Hamas and the Fatah to come together in a national unity government has worsened their feud, exploding into gunbattles this month that killed 12 people.


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