Hillary Clinton’s appearance in Jerusalem may be little more than a show of solidarity.Starting with the fact that she cannot even talk to both sides. The U.S. Government has labelled Hamas a terrorist organisation, and as the saying goes, heads of state do not negotiate with terrorists.
That leaves Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah party and elected Palestinian President; though the title doesn’t earn him much clout in Gaza.
PBS newshour recently hosted Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who outlined how President Abbas has zero influence in the Gaza Strip.
From the PBS Newshour report;
[Abbas] has been marginalized over the years. He was pushed out. His leadership was pushed out of Gaza in 2007 by Hamas, which had won an election in 2006. But the situation between these two rival factions had gotten to the point where it was essentially a civil war.
To make matters worse, the U.S. has time and again threatened veto of Abbas’ efforts to gain Palestinian recognition in the U.N. So the only person the U.S. can talk to directly has little political sway in the area, while holding motivation to be as difficult as diplomatically possible.
The real player is Egyptian President Muhammed Morsi. As a dual representative for the Muslim Brotherhood and the largest Middle Eastern country, he holds significant sway in Gaza. Egypt has also chosen to honour the peace treaty with Israel.
With those relations in his resume, Morsi can actually broker directly between Gaza and Israel.
Unfortunately, Egypt’s new regime has been more confrontational toward Israel and resistant toward U.S. foreign policy.
What leverage the U.S. has over Israel and Egypt comes mostly in terms of foreign aid (Israel ranks number one in foreign aid and Egypt number two). The U.S. pretty much gifted Israel its Iron Dome missile system, and President Barack Obama has demonstrated in the past his ability to rein in Morsi’s rhetoric.
Lastly, relations between the Obama White House and Netanyahu have been frosty, to say the least — some might also conclude that Netanyahu struck Gaza at a time when the U.S. was at its weakest politically and militarily.
In short, Clinton is stepping into a delicate situation, where she will have to rely on finesse, not power.
UPDATE 13:00 EST: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just held a press conference in which they announced that a ceasefire deal has been reached between Israel and Hamas. It is expected to begin at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST). Until then, the sides continue to trade blows.
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