The international community’s policy to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is called the Road Map. As shown by the reaction to Hamas’ electoral victory, a more fitting name would be the Ostrich Approach.
The Ostrich Approach dictates that a policy should not be discredited by its mere total failure. Instead of revamping a failed policy to reflect reality, policymakers bury their head in the sand, ignore the policy’s shortcomings, and when necessary, invert reality in order to fit the policy.
The Road Map’s central tenet is that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will dismantle terrorist organizations, after which Israel will trade land for peace, culminating in a Palestinian state. The policy was stillborn due to the PA’s refusal to act against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But this reality was unacceptable, as a new policy pressuring the PA to shut down terror groups would have been rejected as "one-sided" by the U.N., the EU, and probably even our own State Department. So instead of adjusting the policy, policymakers simply pretended that the Road Map was still viable without its primary condition.
For years, the international community ignored how its inexhaustible foreign aid to the PA was stolen by corrupt officials and even diverted to finance terrorist attacks. A textbook example of the Ostrich Approach was the response by former EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten to demands by European Members of Parliament to investigate PA corruption. Patten quipped that he needed a parliamentary inquiry into the matter "like a hole in the head."
In a later report denying any evidence of PA corruption, Patten explained his initial reluctance to investigate the matter: "What I was seeking to underline was that it would not be appropriate to cast doubt on our actions in the Middle East at a moment when the EU together with the Quartet have become the main actors able to broker peace in the region…"
Translation: Uncovering proof of the diversion of our Palestinian aid for terrorist causes would "cast doubt" on our policy. So it’s better not to look too closely at that. Does anyone have any more sand I can stick my head into?
Now we see where the Ostrich Approach has led us: instead of being dismantled, Hamas has been elected to form the Palestinian government. Is this catastrophic result enough to make the international community rethink its Mideast policy? Of course not.
Here’s U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice’s response to Hamas’ election: "The Palestinian people have apparently voted for change, but we believe their aspirations for peace and a peaceful life remain unchanged." Thus, the Palestinians have apparently expressed their "aspirations for peace" by voting into power the world’s preeminent organizers of suicide bombings.
But for the U.S. to acknowledge Hamas’ victory as a policy failure would discredit even more than the Road Map — it would cast doubt on the Bush Administration’s entire strategy of fighting terror through spreading democracy in the Middle East. The administration will not allow anything to derail this policy — not the election of Hezbollah members to the Lebanese cabinet; not the election of the unhinged Ahmadinejad as President of Iran; not the victory of the fundamentalist Islamic Brotherhood in last year’s Egyptian elections; and certainly not the election of a genocidal terrorist organization to lead the Palestinians. The U.S. has found its own place in the sand.
President Bush and his European counterparts attributed the Hamas election to Palestinian disgust with PA corruption, a problem that the Europeans had denied when it discredited their foreign aid program. But now it’s certainly convenient for the international community to emphasize corruption while ignoring the possibility of Palestinians voting for Hamas specifically because of its Islamic fundamentalism and its sadistic terrorism.
For example, one successful Hamas candidate was Mariam Farahat, a Palestinian who sent three of her sons on suicide missions against Israelis. According to ABC News, "She is most famous for her presence in a Hamas video, showing her 17-year-old how to attack Israelis and telling him not to return. Shortly afterward, he killed five students in a Jewish settlement before he was killed himself." Farahat’s qualifications as an expert auditor who can ensure the probity of PA finances are unclear.
U.S. and EU leaders insist they will not deal with a Hamas government that refuses to renounce violence. There is zero chance that they will keep this pledge, since an international boycott of the PA would kill the Road Map. In fact, even as the EU vowed only to talk to a transformed, peaceful Hamas, an EU spokeswoman was already laying the groundwork for opening relations with the current, terrorist Hamas by telling journalists that the EU, technically, works with the PA, not any particular party. Thus cooperating with a Hamas-controlled PA would not, strictly speaking, be cooperating with Hamas.
The international community will resort to whatever rhetorical gymnastics are required to keep the Road Map alive, even though it’s now based on the absurd supposition of a Hamas-led government committed to cracking down on terror groups and negotiating a peace agreement with Israel.
The Ostrich seems to have an infinite supply of sand and no inclination to ever pull its head out.