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Al-Zaytouna Centre for studies and consultations in Beirut has released a new book entitled: “The United States of America and the Democratic Transformation Process in Palestine: George W. Bush’s Term of Office”. Originally a distinguished MA thesis by Qusai Hamed, this 253-pages study considers the role of the United States of America (USA) in promoting a democratic change in Palestine, during George W. Bush’s term of office.

The book takes the events of 9/11 as a starting point, when the American political discourse towards the Middle East started to change, focusing on “fighting terrorism”, “promoting democracy” and “reform”. The time factor was critical, especially as the Palestinian issue continued since then to witness vast and almost dramatic developments: the death of Arafat and the arrival of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ electoral victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections, periods of internal Palestinian divide and reconciliation, and then the decisive control of Hamas over the Gaza strip. By then the Americans had two parallel strategies in dealing with the Palestinians: besieging and weakening Hamas in the Gaza Strip while assisting and promoting  Abbas’s authority in the West Bank, and restoring the peace negotiations.



Title: The United States of America and the Democratic Transformation Process in Palestine: George W. Bush’s Term of Office

Author: Qusai A. Hamed

Published in: 2009 (1st Edition)

Physical details: 253 pages, 17*24 cm, paperback 

The study argues that the American role of achieving a democratic change in Palestine was highly motivated by the American aspirations to secure Israel, and to ensure an Israeli-Palestinian treaty that serves its own interests and strategic goals in the Middle East. Thus, the three main determinants in pushing for such a change and accepting the results were: serving the American interests, the Israeli-American relations, and the issue of political settlement.
The study adds that the USA didn’t seek “reform” in the PA and its leadership except after failing to present any serious achievement in settling the conflict on one hand, and failing to pressure Israel for more flexibility in negotiating the most critical issues (Jerusalem, right of return and settlements) on the other hand. It was an attempt to change the Palestinian stipulations and basic beliefs/ demands for a settlement, and to change the Palestinians’ belief in their rights as provisioned by the international resolutions (including right of return, sovereignty, and the non-Jewish exclusive identity Jerusalem) to new de facto scenarios.

The study concludes by arguing that the USA has never had a clear-cut policy towards the settlement of the Palestinian question. Rather it has always counted on the Israeli steps, setting them up in the context of a two-state solution vision. This was similarly the case when the George W. Bush Administration wanted to invest the Israeli vision based on a unilateral solution, and put it in the context of the Road Map initiative. On the other hand, it was necessary for the USA to abort any attempt that might strengthen the Palestinian negotiating position, especially on the more sensitive issues, and that might consequently delay any possible arrival at a final-status agreement. 

According to the study, the USA has always worked to keep a state of rupture within the Palestinian camp, particularly between Fatah and Hamas movements. An example where this was clear is the Palestinian internal scene following the Mecca agreement, when the Americans made strenuous efforts to keep the two parties under pressure of the consensual national Palestinian international demands that were established by the agreement. The argument continues to state that the American administration was interested in having the PLO as the Palestinian representative in negotiations, and thus pressuring against any substantial reform in the organization’s structure and hierarchy, that would affect the Palestinian determinants for the framework and priorities of negotiations. Eventually, the Palestinian side has remained weak; the negotiations have continued but without allowing the Palestinian parties any possible room for strengthening their negotiating position.

Beirut, 30/6/2009