Fatah Hamas 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
On the background of growing intra-Palestinian violence, Hamas and Fatah leaders are expected to meet this week in Saudi Arabia. But Palestinian political analyst Ikrimah Thabet told the Post's Khaled Abu Toameh that such efforts won't prove fruitful: "There is no reason for optimism... The divisions are so deep that no temporary cease-fire will help. The bloody events have caused enormous damage to the reputation of the Palestinians, especially in light of the filthy and painful violence that has claimed the lives of children, activists, leaders and innocent civilians."
The barbarism that was directed at Israel has now turned inward, against its perpetrators. This is no particular cause for celebration. We wish to have peace with our neighbors, and it is hard to imagine such a peace when those neighbors are at war with themselves.
So what can and should be done about this situation? We can start by ruling out what has not worked: throwing money indiscriminately at the problem. On January 25, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari said that since Hamas was elected a year ago, aid to the Palestinians, not counting funds going directly to Hamas, amounted to an astounding $1.2 billion.
This figure represents a 10 percent increase over the previous year, and is on a per capita basis the highest level of international assistance going to any people in the world. Despite this massive flow, mostly in food aid and cash-for-work programs, Gambari reported that per capita income had declined in 2006 by at least 8%, and poverty levels had increased some 30%.
Given these facts, the recent suicide bombing in Eilat supported by Fatah's terror wing, and Mahmoud Abbas own calls for turning guns on Israel, the Israeli decision to release $100 million in frozen Palestinian tax revenues to Abbas was a mistake that should not be repeated. But so are American plans - with Israeli support - to expand "nonlethal equipment and training" for Abbas's forces.
According to Reuters, the US government will provide $86.4m. in security assistance "that could cover at least 13,500 troops loyal to Abbas." This program is clearly an attempt to implement the current mantra that the international community must support "moderates" against "extremists." While this idea would seem to have much merit in principle, current approaches have not and will not work.
Unfortunately, we are not witnessing a conflict between ideological opposites, where one side is clearly committed to peace and the other to terrorism. As Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal explained, "We must unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel, as we did at the beginning of the intifada. We want political partnership with Fatah and we are not only optimistic, but also very serious about this, and that's why we are going to Mecca."
Speaking to a rally in Ramallah last month, Abbas sounded a similar note: "We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation... We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation. It is forbidden to use these guns against Palestinians."
In this context, it past time for a change in paradigm. Unless Abbas, still regarded by many in Israel as a potential partner, begins to consistently and publicly push a message and a policy of conciliation among his own people, the international community should not be trying to prop up one radical, corrupt and delegitimized faction against another. It should, rather, be trying to steer the entire Palestinian polity away from terrorism and toward peace with Israel.
The way to do this is to drastically decrease international funding for Palestinian mayhem, while ensuring the closest oversight of funds for vital humanitarian assistance and for initiatives genuinely fostering moderation, and to openly call on the Arab states to set an example for the Palestinians by thawing ties with Israel themselves.
If these states are as deeply concerned about the growing Iranian-led radicalization in the region as they privately say they are, they should be pressed to put in motion an opposite trend. So long as Arab leaders are too fearful to set their own example of moderate behavior toward Israel, they should not be surprised when Palestinian moderates remain weak, embattled or nonexistent.