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February 20, 2006
Hamas victory revolutionises Middle East conflict, says former EU mediator
Former EU mediator on the Middle East, Alastair Crooke, believes that the west should reflect carefully on its response to the historic victory by Hamas in last month’s Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Many commentators have suggested that the resounding victory serves as a savage indictment of the failure of past U.S. and Israeli policy to resolve the Middle East conflict. But in an article for this month’s The Muslim News, Crooke argues that the result could revolutionise the Middle East conflict.
“I believe that a competent and effective Palestinian leadership speaking with a fresh mandate and broad support for a national policy will give back to Palestinians the initiative. It will be hard to ignore,” he said.
The former Security Advisor to the EU’s Foreign Policy Supremo Javier Solana, warned that the west “seems determined to paint itself into a corner on the recognition issue,” suggesting that Europe appears to be “intent of being more Israeli than the Israelis themselves.”
“The west so far has failed to recognize the extent of the changes taking place.” he said, criticising countries for their “self-imposed isolation from the principle currents of change in the region.”
Crooke, who is attributed with securing ceasefires in the Middle East until his cover as a British intelligence officer was reportedly blown by the Israelis a couple of years ago, said the stakes for Europe are “higher than just the risk of stasis in the Israeli Palestinian conflict – serious enough as that is.”
“By taking the vanguard in the campaign of isolation for the Movement that now enjoys greater legitimacy than probably any other government or ruling movement in the Muslim World, we risk broadcasting a message of hostility to Muslims everywhere,” he warned.
“To do this at a time when Muslims see the European “3”, Germany, Britain and France in the lead in referring Iran to the Security Council may lead many to conclude that Europe is lurching in the direction of confrontation with Islam.” he said.
His warning come as western governments are seen facing “a Northern Ireland-style dilemma” over whether to change their official position of refusing to talk to Hamas.
Crooke said that there were dangers of trying to label the Hamas victory as merely representing a huge Palestinian protest vote against Fatah rule, mired by corruption, and nepotism.
Hamas, he said, had argued that “only self-reliance and maintaining the – albeit grudging respect – of Israelis could assure any hope of a just outcome” for the Middle East conflict.
The former EU mediator supported the belief that its election victory reflects acceptance Hamas offers a better model of successful negotiations with Israel than does Fatah’s of enlistment of US support as it will not look elsewhere to resolve.
With regard to the current spate of stories to destabilise the incoming Palestinian government, Crooke suggests that wiser advice to both Israel and the west would prevail.
“Such actions will only strengthen Hamas in the Palestinian and Arab world and will be counter-productive to western interests,” he said.
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