July 16, 2007


Can Fatah Compete with Hamas? (Dennis Ross, 07.16.07, New Republic)

First, Fatah must have new leaders. If there was one phrase I heard more than any other, it was "Fatah must have new faces." No one meant that a simple veneer would suffice. Rather that the Palestinian public would never believe that Fatah had remade itself if the same people led Fatah. Interestingly, I found great support for Salam Fayyad, now the prime minister, foreign minister, and finance minister of the new emergency government of the Palestinian Authority (PA). He is not a member of Fatah, but his insistence on creating new institutions in the PA will inevitably build the credibility of the PA and, by extension, the credibility of Fatah.

Second, Fatah must be seen as delivering. What matters more than anything else is action and deeds, not only words. New faces in Fatah represent a starting point. But Fatah and the PA must be seen as active at the local level and being responsive socially and economically. Being responsive also means ending corruption and re-establishing not only the rule of law but a sense of security for Palestinians. It is interesting that Hamas is now trying to present itself in Gaza as restoring law and order. Fayyad is clearly trying to do the same thing in the West Bank. I saw an unprecedented number of heavily armed security forces in uniform on the ground in Ramallah. And Fayyad told me that this is deliberate: He is trying to establish a presence in each city to show that the PA is re-establishing order. Will the armed militias and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades disarm or be incorporated in a disciplined way into the security forces? That remains a huge question, but Fayyad, at least, is trying to make the decree on disarming something other than an empty promise. Time will tell whether he can deliver on what he is trying to do, but I found much support for his efforts among some of the Tanzim that I met.

Third, there does need to be a sense of possibility about peace with Israel. A process, negotiations, dialogue, and the promise of changes on the ground will count for a lot. Ironically, I did not find the Palestinians I spoke with--and the number is now over 40 in my two visits here in the last six weeks--wanting to raise false expectations. No one expects an immediate breakthrough and resolution of the permanent status issues. Of course, that would be desirable. But what I saw was a desire for real, not illusionary changes. Changes that showed that day-to-day life, economically and practically in terms of mobility, would be transformed. Such changes would make permanent status negotiations more believable. Permanent status disconnected from the day-to-day realities will have no credibility. Palestinians would ask me, "If I cannot get from Nablus to Jenin, am I supposed to believe that I will have a state with an East Jerusalem capital?" That is why security and any political process are inevitably tied together.

All this has lessons for American statecraft now. We must keep our eye on the essential objective. The key question now is whether the Palestinians will have a secular future or an Islamist future. Our stake in a national, secular future for the Palestinians is very clear.

It is only slightly too polemical to say that: when you look at the effects that secularism has had on European nations (like Israel)--particularly the demographic divergence from religious America--a policy of forcing secularism on the Palestinians borders on exterminationism, or, at best, a suicide pact.

Yes, you can work with Hamas: The US approach to the Palestinian territories is inviting disaster. (Augustus Richard Norton and Sara Roy, 7/17/07, CS Monitor)

How did the US end up in its current predicament? In January 2006, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza cast their ballots. Voting for the first time in 10 years, and resentful of corruption and arrogance in the Palestinian Authority, they decided for Hamas, described by many in the West as a terrorist group. Blindsided by its legitimate victory, the Bush administration faced a stark dilemma. If it accepted the result, a group that has launched terrorist attacks against Israel would be permitted to enjoy power. However, since the US had strongly backed the elections, rejecting the outcome would be hypocritical. [...]

Despite the dangerous division of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, it is unlikely that Palestinians will cede their desire for a state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas voters overwhelmingly support a two-state solution, and the Hamas leadership has declared it would honor any agreement ratified by popular referendum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2007 4:05 PM

Hamas voters overwhelmingly support a two-state solution, and the Hamas leadership has declared it would honor any agreement ratified by popular referendum.

One can only stand in awe of such a creative analysis.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 17, 2007 1:29 AM