The Starvation Diet: Is It an Empty Strategy?



Rather than simply watching the situation in the Middle East slide from bad to worse, it appears that both Israel and the United States are prepared to do something about it. The only question that remains is whether their plan to oust the recently elected Hamas terrorists is viable.

The strategy Israel and the United States appear to be employing is theoretically simple. The Palestinian Authority is totally dependent on outside aid from the European Union, the United States and Israel. If these countries agree to turn off the spigot of foreign cash, then the Hamas front men in Ramallah and Gaza will be forced to say "uncle." What they will then need to do is recognize Israel and renounce violence.

But since no one actually believes they'll do just that, the idea is that widespread unemployment – after all, a huge percentage of the Palestinian workforce is "employed" by the P.A. – and other privations created by the aid hiatus will generate a counter-revolution in the territories that will force new elections and the ensuing defeat of Hamas.

That's a nice theory, but it runs up against some big obstacles.

The problem with Hamas is that unlike its Fatah rivals, they don't think transparent attempts to deceive Westerners about a wish to destroy Israel are a good use of time. In fact, the terror group thinks that sticking to its guns and insisting on affirming the said goal of wiping out the Jewish state represents sound politics, as well as melds nicely with its Islamist worldview.

The idea that they might bend because of the suffering of ordinary folk is one that ignores the strategy Hamas employed during every one of its terrorist offensives. The more its atrocities prompted Israeli defensive measures – like checkpoints and the security fence that worsened daily life for Palestinians – the better they liked it.

It's possible that Hamas will be able to count on greater – not lesser – sympathy from voters if the outside world clamps down on it, since they will be seen as "victims" of a U.S.-Israel attempt at squelching Palestinian democracy.

Next, most terrorist movements that achieve power tend to practice the principle of "one man, one vote … one time." The armed cadres of Hamas will be strengthened – not weakened – by their control of government. All bets are off that cold-blooded and calculating killers will let themselves be peacefully maneuvered out of power.

Finally, when push comes to shove, some in Europe will break down and undo the joint strategy. Once the news media begins broadcasting stories of suffering caused by the aid shortage, it's questionable whether European countries that have been hostile to Israel – and reluctant to be judgmental about Palestinian terrorism – will hold fast to the boycott.

Indeed, the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to invite Hamas representatives to Moscow (a move France has already endorsed) shows that there are diplomatic wild cards Washington and Jerusalem may not have taken into account.

Though it's unlikely that Iran or the Arab world would pitch in some of their oil wealth to subsidize the Palestinians (something they've never been willing to do before), that remains another possibility that could undermine the boycott.

While the starvation strategy appears to be the best option available – and should be adhered to, no matter what the Europeans do – no one should count on the Palestinians doing the purely rational thing.

In other words, despite our hopes, the spiral toward intensified conflict may just be beginning.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here