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US Moved To Create Civil War With Palestinians Part 2

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Editor's Note:

Here is part 2 of how the US acted to subvert the 
democratic process that we profess to support in 
the Middle East. Democracy is not a principle we 
pursue, but an occasional tactic. When democracy 
is at odds with our strategy, we discard it. The 
reason?  

Democracy has NEVER BEEN A GOAL FOR THE MIDDLE EAST. 

For Part 1 Click: 
US Moved To Create Civil War With Palestinians Part 1 

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"Very Clever Warfare"

Fatah's vulnerability was a source of grave concern to 
Dahlan. "I made a lot of activities to give Hamas the 
impression that we were still strong and we had the 
capacity to face them," he says. "But I knew in my heart 
it wasn't true." He had no official security position at 
the time, but he belonged to parliament and retained the 
loyalty of Fatah members in Gaza. "I used my image, my 
power." Dahlan says he told Abbas that "Gaza needs only 
a decision for Hamas to take over." To prevent that from 
happening, Dahlan waged "very clever warfare" for many 
months. 

According to several alleged victims, one of the tactics 
this "warfare" entailed was to kidnap and torture members 
of Hamas's Executive Force. (Dahlan denies Fatah used 
such tactics, but admits "mistakes" were made.) Abdul 
Karim al-Jasser, a strapping man of 25, says he was the 
first such victim. "It was on October 16, still Ramadan," 
he says. "I was on my way to my sister's house for iftar. 
Four guys stopped me, two of them with guns. They forced 
me to accompany them to the home of Aman abu Jidyan," a 
Fatah leader close to Dahlan. (Abu Jidyan would be killed 
in the June uprising.) 

The first phase of torture was straightforward enough, 
al-Jasser says: he was stripped naked, bound, blindfolded, 
and beaten with wooden poles and plastic pipes. "They put 
a piece of cloth in my mouth to stop me screaming." His 
interrogators forced him to answer contradictory 
accusations: one minute they said that he had collaborated 
with Israel, the next that he had fired Qassam rockets 
against it. 

But the worst was yet to come. "They brought an iron bar," 
al-Jasser says, his voice suddenly hesitant. We are speak-
ing inside his home in Gaza, which is experiencing one of 
its frequent power outages. He points to the propane-gas 
lamp that lights the room. "They put the bar in the flame 
of a lamp like this. When it was red, they took the cover-
ing off my eyes. Then they pressed it against my skin. 
That was the last thing I remember." 

When he came to, he was still in the room where he had been 
tortured. A few hours later, the Fatah men handed him over 
to Hamas, and he was taken to the hospital. "I could see 
the shock in the eyes of the doctors who entered the room," 
he says. He shows me photos of purple third-degree burns 
wrapped like towels around his thighs and much of his lower 
torso. "The doctors told me that if I had been thin, not 
chubby, I would have died. But I wasn't alone. That same 
night that I was released, abu Jidyan's men fired five 
bullets into the legs of one of my relatives. We were in 
the same ward in the hospital." 

Dahlan says he did not order al-Jasser's torture: "The only 
order I gave was to defend ourselves. That doesn't mean 
there wasn't torture, some things that went wrong, but I 
did not know about this." 

The dirty war between Fatah and Hamas continued to gather 
momentum throughout the autumn, with both sides committing 
atrocities. By the end of 2006, dozens were dying each 
month. Some of the victims were noncombatants. In December, 
gunmen opened fire on the car of a Fatah intelligence 
official, killing his three young children and their 
driver. 

There was still no sign that Abbas was ready to bring 
matters to a head by dissolving the Hamas government. 
Against this darkening background, the U.S. began direct 
security talks with Dahlan. 

"He's Our Guy"

In 2001, President Bush famously said that he had looked 
Russian president Vladimir Putin in the eye, gotten "a 
sense of his soul," and found him to be "trustworthy." 
According to three U.S. officials, Bush made a similar 
judgment about Dahlan when they first met, in 2003. 
All three officials recall hearing Bush say, "He's our 
guy." 

They say this assessment was echoed by other key figures 
in the administration, including Rice and Assistant 
Secretary David Welch, the man in charge of Middle East 
policy at the State Department. "David Welch didn't 
fundamentally care about Fatah," one of his colleagues 
says. "He cared about results, and [he supported] whatever 
son of a bitch you had to support. Dahlan was the son of 
a bitch we happened to know best. He was a can-do kind 
of person. Dahlan was our guy." 

Avi Dichter, Israel's internal-security minister and the 
former head of its Shin Bet security service, was taken 
aback when he heard senior American officials refer to 
Dahlan as "our guy." "I thought to myself, The president 
of the United States is making a strange judgment here," 
says Dichter. 

Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, who had been appointed 
the U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinians in 
November 2005, was in no position to question the 
president's judgment of Dahlan. His only prior experience 
with the Middle East was as director of the Iraq Survey 
Group, the body that looked for Saddam Hussein’s elusive 
weapons of mass destruction. 

In November 2006, Dayton met Dahlan for the first of a 
long series of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Both men 
were accompanied by aides. From the outset, says an 
official who took notes at the meeting, Dayton was 
pushing two overlapping agendas. "We need to reform the 
Palestinian security apparatus," Dayton said, according 
to the notes. "But we also need to build up your forces 
in order to take on Hamas." 

Dahlan replied that, in the long run, Hamas could be 
defeated only by political means. "But if I am going 
to confront them," he added, "I need substantial 
resources. As things stand, we do not have the 
capability." 

The two men agreed that they would work toward a new 
Palestinian security plan. The idea was to simplify 
the confusing web of Palestinian security forces and 
have Dahlan assume responsibility for all of them in 
the newly created role of Palestinian national-security 
adviser. The Americans would help supply weapons and 
training. 

As part of the reform program, according to the official 
who was present at the meetings, Dayton said he wanted to 
disband the Preventive Security Service, which was widely 
known to be engaged in kidnapping and torture. At a meeting 
in Dayton's Jerusalem office in early December, Dahlan 
ridiculed the idea. "The only institution now protecting 
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in Gaza is the one 
you want removed," he said. 

Dayton softened a little. "We want to help you," he said. 
"What do you need?" 

"Iran-Contra 2.0"

Under Bill Clinton, Dahlan says, commitments of security 
assistance "were always delivered, absolutely." Under 
Bush, he was about to discover, things were different. 
At the end of 2006, Dayton promised an immediate package 
worth $86.4 million—money that, according to a U.S. 
document published by Reuters on January 5, 2007, would 
be used to "dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism 
and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza." 
U.S. officials even told reporters the money would be 
transferred "in the coming days."

The cash never arrived. "Nothing was disbursed," Dahlan 
says. "It was approved and it was in the news. But we 
received not a single penny." 

Any notion that the money could be transferred quickly 
and easily had died on Capitol Hill, where the payment 
was blocked by the House Subcommittee on the Middle 
East and South Asia. Its members feared that military 
aid to the Palestinians might end up being turned 
against Israel. 

Dahlan did not hesitate to voice his exasperation. "I 
spoke to Condoleezza Rice on several occasions," he 
says. "I spoke to Dayton, to the consul general, to 
everyone in the administration I knew. They said, 'You 
have a convincing argument.' We were sitting in Abbas's 
office in Ramallah, and I explained the whole thing to 
Condi. And she said, 'Yes, we have to make an effort to 
do this. There’s no other way.'?" At some of these 
meetings, Dahlan says, Assistant Secretary Welch and 
Deputy National-Security Adviser Abrams were also present. 

The administration went back to Congress, and a reduced, 
$59 million package for nonlethal aid was approved in 
April 2007. But as Dahlan knew, the Bush team had already 
spent the past months exploring alternative, covert 
means of getting him the funds and weapons he wanted. 
The reluctance of Congress meant that "you had to look 
for different pots, different sources of money," says a 
Pentagon official. 

A State Department official adds, "Those in charge of 
implementing the policy were saying, 'Do whatever it 
takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat 
Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile 
and the muscle to do this.' The expectation was that this 
was where it would end up—with a military showdown." 
There were, this official says, two "parallel programs"—the 
overt one, which the administration took to Congress, "and 
a covert one, not only to buy arms but to pay the salaries 
of security personnel." 

In essence, the program was simple. According to State 
Department officials, beginning in the latter part of 
2006, Rice initiated several rounds of phone calls and 
personal meetings with leaders of four Arab nations—
Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 
She asked them to bolster Fatah by providing military 
training and by pledging funds to buy its forces lethal 
weapons. The money was to be paid directly into accounts 
controlled by President Abbas. 

The scheme bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra 
scandal, in which members of Ronald Reagan's administration 
sold arms to Iran, an enemy of the U.S. The money was used 
to fund the contra rebels in Nicaragua, in violation of a 
congressional ban. Some of the money for the contras, like 
that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result 
of U.S. lobbying. 

But there are also important differences—starting with the 
fact that Congress never passed a measure expressly 
prohibiting the supply of aid to Fatah and Dahlan. "It was 
close to the margins," says a former intelligence official 
with experience in covert programs. "But it probably wasn't 
illegal." 

Legal or not, arms shipments soon began to take place. In 
late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an 
Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents 
were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-
made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two 
million bullets. News of the shipment leaked, and Benjamin 
Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Cabinet member, said on Israeli 
radio that the guns and ammunition would give Abbas "the 
ability to cope with those organizations which are trying 
to ruin everything"—namely, Hamas. 

Avi Dichter points out that all weapons shipments had to 
be approved by Israel, which was understandably hesitant 
to allow state-of-the-art arms into Gaza. "One thing's 
for sure, we weren't talking about heavy weapons," says 
a State Department official. "It was small arms, light 
machine guns, ammunition."

Perhaps the Israelis held the Americans back. Perhaps 
Elliott Abrams himself held back, unwilling to run afoul 
of U.S. law for a second time. One of his associates says 
Abrams, who declined to comment for this article, felt 
conflicted over the policy—torn between the disdain he 
felt for Dahlan and his overriding loyalty to the 
administration. He wasn't the only one: "There were 
severe fissures among neoconservatives over this," says 
Cheney's former adviser David Wurmser. "We were ripping 
each other to pieces." 

During a trip to the Middle East in January 2007, Rice 
found it difficult to get her partners to honor their 
pledges. "The Arabs felt the U.S. was not serious," one 
official says. "They knew that if the Americans were 
serious they would put their own money where their mouth 
was. They didn't have faith in America's ability to raise 
a real force. There was no follow-through. Paying was 
different than pledging, and there was no plan." 

This official estimates that the program raised "a few 
payments of $30 million"—most of it, as other sources 
agree, from the United Arab Emirates. Dahlan himself 
says the total was only $20 million, and confirms that 
"the Arabs made many more pledges than they ever paid." 
Whatever the exact amount, it was not enough. 

Plan B

On February 1, 2007, Dahlan took his "very clever warfare" 
to a new level when Fatah forces under his control stormed 
the Islamic University of Gaza, a Hamas stronghold, and 
set several buildings on fire. Hamas retaliated the next 
day with a wave of attacks on police stations. 

Unwilling to preside over a Palestinian civil war, Abbas 
blinked. For weeks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had been 
trying to persuade him to meet with Hamas in Mecca and 
formally establish a national unity government. On 
February 6, Abbas went, taking Dahlan with him. Two days 
later, with Hamas no closer to recognizing Israel, a deal 
was struck. 

Under its terms, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas would remain 
prime minister while allowing Fatah members to occupy 
several important posts. When the news hit the streets 
that the Saudis had promised to pay the Palestinian 
Authority's salary bills, Fatah and Hamas members in Gaza 
celebrated together by firing their Kalashnikovs into the 
air. 

Once again, the Bush administration had been taken by 
surprise. According to a State Department official, 
"Condi was apoplectic." A remarkable documentary record, 
revealed here for the first time, shows that the U.S. 
responded by redoubling the pressure on its Palestinian 
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The State Department quickly drew up an alternative to the 
new unity government. Known as "Plan B," its objective, 
according to a State Department memo that has been 
authenticated by an official who knew of it at the time, 
was to "enable [Abbas] and his supporters to reach a 
defined endgame by the end of 2007 The endgame should 
produce a [Palestinian Authority] government through 
democratic means that accepts Quartet principles." 

Like the Walles ultimatum of late 2006, Plan B called for 
Abbas to "collapse the government" if Hamas refused to 
alter its attitude toward Israel. From there, Abbas could 
call early elections or impose an emergency government. 
It is unclear whether, as president, Abbas had the 
constitutional authority to dissolve an elected government 
led by a rival party, but the Americans swept that concern 
aside. 

Security considerations were paramount, and Plan B had 
explicit prescriptions for dealing with them. For as 
long as the unity government remained in office, it was 
essential for Abbas to maintain "independent control of 
key security forces." He must "avoid Hamas integration 
with these services, while eliminating the Executive 
Force or mitigating the challenges posed by its continued 
existence." 

In a clear reference to the covert aid expected from the 
Arabs, the memo made this recommendation for the next six 
to nine months: "Dahlan oversees effort in coordination 
with General Dayton and Arab [nations] to train and equip 
15,000-man force under President Abbas's control to 
establish internal law and order, stop terrorism and 
deter extralegal forces." 

The Bush administration's goals for Plan B were elaborated 
in a document titled "An Action Plan for the Palestinian 
Presidency." This action plan went through several drafts 
and was developed by the U.S., the Palestinians, and the 
government of Jordan. Sources agree, however, that it 
originated in the State Department. 

The early drafts stressed the need for bolstering Fatah's 
forces in order to "deter" Hamas. The "desired outcome" 
was to give Abbas "the capability to take the required 
strategic political decisions... such as dismissing the 
cabinet, establishing an emergency cabinet." 

The drafts called for increasing the "level and capacity" 
of 15,000 of Fatah's existing security personnel while 
adding 4,700 troops in seven new "highly trained battalions 
on strong policing." The plan also promised to arrange 
"specialized training abroad," in Jordan and Egypt, and 
pledged to "provide the security personnel with the 
necessary equipment and arms to carry out their missions." 

A detailed budget put the total cost for salaries, train-
ing, and "the needed security equipment, lethal and non-
lethal," at $1.27 billion over five years. The plan states: 
"The costs and overall budget were developed jointly with 
General Dayton's team and the Palestinian
technical team for reform"—a unit established by Dahlan 
and led by his friend and policy aide Bassil Jaber. Jaber 
confirms that the document is an accurate summary of the 
work he and his colleagues did with Dayton. "The plan was 
to create a security establishment that could protect and 
strengthen a peaceful Palestinian state living side by 
side with Israel," he says. 

The final draft of the Action Plan was drawn up in Ramallah 
by officials of the Palestinian Authority. This version was 
identical to the earlier drafts in all meaningful ways but 
one: it presented the plan as if it had been the 
Palestinians' idea. It also said the security proposals 
had been "approved by President Mahmoud Abbas after being 
discussed and agreed [to] by General Dayton's team." 

On April 30, 2007, a portion of one early draft was leaked 
to a Jordanian newspaper, Al-Majd. The secret was out. 
From Hamas's perspective, the Action Plan could amount 
to only one thing: a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah 
coup. 

"We Are Late in the Ball Game Here"

The formation of the unity government had brought a measure 
of calm to the Palestinian territories, but violence 
erupted anew after Al-Majd published its story on the 
Action Plan. The timing was unkind to Fatah, which, to add 
to its usual disadvantages, was without its security chief. 
Ten days earlier, Dahlan had left Gaza for Berlin, where 
he'd had surgery on both knees. He was due to spend the 
next eight weeks convalescing. 

In mid-May, with Dahlan still absent, a new element was 
added to Gaza's toxic mix when 500 Fatah National Security 
Forces recruits arrived, fresh from training in Egypt and 
equipped with new weapons and vehicles. "They had been on 
a crash course for 45 days," Dahlan says. "The idea was 
that we needed them to go in dressed well, equipped well, 
and that might create the impression of new authority." 
Their presence was immediately noticed, not only by Hamas 
but by staff from Western aid agencies. "They had new 
rifles with telescopic sights, and they were wearing black 
flak jackets," says a frequent visitor from Northern 
Europe. "They were quite a contrast to the usual scruffy 
lot." 

On May 23, none other than Lieutenant General Dayton 
discussed the new unit in testimony before the House 
Middle East subcommittee. Hamas had attacked the troops 
as they crossed into Gaza from Egypt, Dayton said, but 
"these 500 young people, fresh out of basic training, 
were organized. They knew how to work in a coordinated 
fashion. Training does pay off. And the Hamas attack 
in the area was, likewise, repulsed." 

The troops' arrival, Dayton said, was one of several 
"hopeful signs" in Gaza. Another was Dahlan's appointment 
as national-security adviser. Meanwhile, he said, Hamas's 
Executive Force was becoming "extremely unpopular I would 
say that we are kind of late in the ball game here, and 
we are behind, there's two out, but we have our best 
clutch hitter at the plate, and the pitcher is beginning 
to tire on the opposing team." 

The opposing team was stronger than Dayton realized. By 
the end of May 2007, Hamas was mounting regular attacks 
of unprecedented boldness and savagery. 

At an apartment in Ramallah that Abbas has set aside 
for wounded refugees from Gaza, I meet a former Fatah 
communications officer named Tariq Rafiyeh. He lies 
paralyzed from a bullet he took to the spine during the 
June coup, but his suffering began two weeks earlier. 
On May 31, he was on his way home with a colleague when 
they were stopped at a roadblock, robbed of their money 
and cell phones, and taken to a mosque. There, despite 
the building's holy status, Hamas Executive Force members 
were violently interrogating Fatah detainees. "Late that 
night one of them said we were going to be released," 
Rafiyeh recalls. "He told the guards, 'Be hospitable, 
keep them warm.' I thought that meant kill us. Instead, 
before letting us go they beat us badly." 

On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the 
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton 
had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms 
shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds 
of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, 
and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, 
just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to 
leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest. 

Fatah's Last Stand

The Hamas leadership in Gaza is adamant that the coup 
would not have happened if Fatah had not provoked it. 
Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas's chief spokesman, says the leak 
in Al-Majd convinced the party that "there was a plan, 
approved by America, to destroy the political choice." 
The arrival of the first Egyptian-trained fighters, he 
adds, was the "reason for the timing." About 250 Hamas 
members had been killed in the first six months of 
2007, Barhoum tells me. "Finally we decided to put an 
end to it. If we had let them stay loose in Gaza, 
there would have been more violence." 

"Everyone here recognizes that Dahlan was trying with 
American help to undermine the results of the elections," 
says Mahmoud Zahar, the former foreign minister for the 
Haniyeh government, who now leads Hamas's militant wing 
in Gaza. "He was the one planning a coup." 

Zahar and I speak inside his home in Gaza, which was 
rebuilt after a 2003 Israeli air strike destroyed it, 
killing one of his sons. He tells me that Hamas launched 
its operations in June with a limited objective: "The 
decision was only to get rid of the Preventive Security 
Service. They were the ones out on every crossroads, 
putting anyone suspected of Hamas involvement at risk 
of being tortured or killed." But when Fatah fighters 
inside a surrounded Preventive Security office in 
Jabaliya began retreating from building to building, 
they set off a "domino effect" that emboldened Hamas 
to seek broader gains. 

Many armed units that were nominally loyal to Fatah did 
not fight at all. Some stayed neutral because they feared 
that, with Dahlan absent, his forces were bound to lose. 
"I wanted to stop the cycle of killing," says Ibrahim abu 
al-Nazar, a veteran party chief. "What did Dahlan expect? 
Did he think the U.S. Navy was going to come to Fatah's 
rescue? They promised him everything, but what did they 
do? But he also deceived them. He told them he was the 
strongman of the region. Even the Americans may now feel 
sad and frustrated. Their friend lost the battle." 

Others who stayed out of the fight were extremists. "Fatah 
is a large movement, with many schools inside it," says 
Khalid Jaberi, a commander with Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' 
Brigades, which continue to fire rockets into Israel from 
Gaza. "Dahlan's school is funded by the Americans and 
believes in negotiations with Israel as a strategic choice. 
Dahlan tried to control everything in Fatah, but there are 
cadres who could do a much better job. Dahlan treated us 
dictatorially. There was no overall Fatah decision to 
confront Hamas, and that's why our guns in al-Aqsa are 
the cleanest. They are not corrupted by the blood of our 
people." 

Jaberi pauses. He spent the night before our interview 
awake and in hiding, fearful of Israeli air strikes. "You 
know," he says, "since the takeover, we've been trying 
to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their 
mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in 
control serves their overall strategy, because their 
policy was so crazy otherwise." 

The fighting was over in less than five days. It began 
with attacks on Fatah security buildings, in and around 
Gaza City and in the southern town of Rafah. Fatah 
attempted to shell Prime Minister Haniyeh's house, but 
by dusk on June 13 its forces were being routed. 

Years of oppression by Dahlan and his forces were avenged 
as Hamas chased down stray Fatah fighters and subjected 
them to summary execution. At least one victim was 
reportedly thrown from the roof of a high-rise building. 
By June 16, Hamas had captured every Fatah building, as 
well as Abbas’s official Gaza residence. Much of Dahlan's 
house, which doubled as his office, was reduced to rubble. 

Fatah's last stand, predictably enough, was made by the 
Preventive Security Service. The unit sustained heavy 
casualties, but a rump of about 100 surviving fighters 
eventually made it to the beach and escaped in the night 
by fishing boat. 

At the apartment in Ramallah, the wounded struggle on. 
Unlike Fatah, Hamas fired exploding bullets, which are 
banned under the Geneva Conventions. Some of the men in 
the apartment were shot with these rounds 20 or 30 times, 
producing unimaginable injuries that required amputation. 
Several have lost both legs. 

The coup has had other costs. Amjad Shawer, a local 
economist, tells me that Gaza had 400 functioning 
factories and workshops at the start of 2007. By December, 
the intensified Israeli blockade had caused 90 percent 
of them to close. Seventy percent of Gaza's population 
is now living on less than $2 a day. 

Israel, meanwhile, is no safer. The emergency pro-peace 
government called for in the secret Action Plan is now 
in office—but only in the West Bank. In Gaza, the exact 
thing both Israel and the U.S. Congress warned against 
came to pass when Hamas captured most of Fatah's arms 
and ammunition—including the new Egyptian guns supplied 
under the covert U.S.-Arab aid program. 

Now that it controls Gaza, Hamas has given free rein to 
militants intent on firing rockets into neighboring 
Israeli towns. "We are still developing our rockets; 
soon we shall hit the heart of Ashkelon at will," says 
Jaberi, the al-Aqsa commander, referring to the Israeli 
city of 110,000 people 12 miles from Gaza’s border. "I 
assure you, the time is near when we will mount a big 
operation inside Israel, in Haifa or Tel Aviv." 

On January 23, Hamas blew up parts of the wall dividing 
Gaza from Egypt, and tens of thousands of Palestinians 
crossed the border. Militants had already been smuggling 
weapons through a network of underground tunnels, but 
the breach of the wall made their job much easier—and 
may have brought Jaberi's threat closer to reality. 

George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice continue to push the 
peace process, but Avi Dichter says Israel will never 
conclude a deal on Palestinian statehood until the 
Palestinians reform their entire law-enforcement system—
what he calls "the chain of security." With Hamas in 
control of Gaza, there appears to be no chance of that 
happening. "Just look at the situation," says Dahlan. 
"They say there will be a final-status agreement in 
eight months? No way." 

"An Institutional Failure"

How could the U.S. have played Gaza so wrong? Neocon 
critics of the administration—who until last year were 
inside it—blame an old State Department vice: the rush 
to anoint a strongman instead of solving problems 
directly. This ploy has failed in places as diverse as 
Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America, and Saddam 
Hussein's Iraq, during its war against Iran. To rely 
on proxies such as Muhammad Dahlan, says former U.N. 
ambassador John Bolton, is "an institutional failure, 
a failure of strategy." Its author, he says, was Rice, 
"who, like others in the dying days of this administration, 
is looking for legacy. Having failed to heed the warning 
not to hold the elections, they tried to avoid the result 
through Dayton." 

With few good options left, the administration now 
appears to be rethinking its blanket refusal to engage 
with Hamas. Staffers at the National Security Council 
and the Pentagon recently put out discreet feelers to 
academic experts, asking them for papers describing 
Hamas and its principal protagonists. "They say they 
won't talk to Hamas," says one such expert, "but in 
the end they're going to have to. It's inevitable."

It is impossible to say for sure whether the outcome 
in Gaza would have been any better—for the Palestinian 
people, for the Israelis, and for America's allies in 
Fatah—if the Bush administration had pursued a different 
policy. One thing, however, seems certain: it could not 
be any worse. 

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