Saudis: U.S. paved way for Hamas victory

By CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI International Editor   |   Jan. 27, 2006 at 5:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A confidential Saudi report prepared just weeks before the Palestinian elections predicted a Hamas victory in Gaza and the West Bank and puts the blame on the United States: "By failing to strengthen (President Mahmoud )Abbas's position, the U.S. has paved the way for a Hamas victory," states a document prepared by the Saudi National Security Assessment Project.

"Moreover, the U.S administration's faith in the power of elections to transform people makes it oblivious to the possibility that the democratic process is often a double-edged sword which can have unintended consequences," goes on to say the policy brief delivered last Dec. 27 by the SNSAP's director, Nawaf Obaid.

Furthermore, the brief states that the U.S. failed to press "Abbas to implement his commitments to security and disarmament, and has not succeeded in convincing donor nations to fulfill their pledges for financial assistance to the Palestinians."

Obaid's study anticipated that the Palestinian elections set for January 25, 2006 "will in all probability result in a victory for Hamas."

"Such an outcome would have wide ranging implications for Saudi Arabia's national security and emerging foreign policy in the region," warned the confidential brief made available to United Press International, adding that "the Palestinians face dire social welfare needs not addressed by the current government."

Recent surveys conducted by the Saudi National Security Assessment Project indicate that there is deep distrust of senior officials in the Palestinian Authority, most of whom are Fatah members. "This situation has created an opportunity that Hamas has been able to exploit."

The brief cites United Nations statistics indicating that "almost 75 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line."

Given that Hamas operates "extensive social services infrastructure that includes schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, and soup kitchens," basic services that the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat and later Abbas, often failed to provide anything approaching Hamas' services.

Additionally, Hamas' reputation for financial probity, are in contrast to perceived Fatah corruption and incompetence.

As the primary regional supporter of the Palestinian cause, Saudi Arabia finds it has a unique moral responsibility to insure that humanitarian needs of the Palestinians continue to be met, particularly given the distinct possibility that U.S. and European Union funds are under threat of being suspended now that Hamas will be in power.

"A victory by Hamas presents a challenge to Saudi Arabia in that this financial support will likely need to be increased if the U.S. and Europe reduce or refuse to support a Hamas-controlled Palestinian government," says the brief.

"American policies in the region, especially its unfettered support for Israel and its designation of Hamas as a terror organization, complicate the situation, and demonstrate that the Bush administration is clearly out of touch. Thus, they are unable to understand the situation from the Palestinian perspective," states the Saudi report.

The report goes on to say: "Palestinians have lost faith in a leadership they had expected would revitalize the economy, rein in official corruption, curb criminal activity, and revive efforts for the creation of an independent Palestinian state."

Adding a word of caution, the Saudi report states: "A Hamas win will reveal the extent U.S. power, prestige, and ideals have been undermined in the region. In fact, it will provide momentum to these trends and will likely lead to a power vacuum in the peace process."

The report recommends that it will be up to Saudi Arabia - "the only country with the political, religious, and economic might to fill the void" -- to assume greater responsibility.

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest supporter of the Palestinian Authority's social and economic services. In addition private Saudi citizens and charitable foundations donate approximately $150 million per year to support the general social and economic programs in the Palestinian territories. This makes the Kingdom the largest single aid donor to Palestine.

The Saudi report stresses that Hamas' agenda must be moderated. "But considering the centerpiece of its charter is the destruction of Israel, that will be difficult to do."

However, according to unnamed Hamas officials cited in the Saudi report, "the only way that the organization can moderate its approach and still save face would be to resurrect the 2002 Abdallah peace initiative."

This is in reference to a peace proposal put forward by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, then Crown Prince, during an Arab summit in Beirut in which he was prepared to offer Israel full recognition and normal relations in return for Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied since 1967 and return of the Palestine refugees to Israel.

Reviving the Abdullah initiative would make Saudi Arabia a direct partner in the peace process and consolidate its position as the chief backer of the Palestinians on the world scene.

The report concludes "The Saudi leadership should prepare for this outcome."

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(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)

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