Defuse the conflict

All Palestinian factions agree that they should not be killing one other, but Israelis.

fatah gunmen 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
fatah gunmen 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
If there is one thing on which all Palestinian factions agree, it is that Palestinians should not be killing one other, but instead should be killing Israelis. As Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said to a rally on January 11, "We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation." In case he had not been clear enough, Abbas continued, "We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation. It is forbidden to use these guns against Palestinians. The occupation has perpetrated brutal attacks in Jenin, Beit Hanun and Ramallah." Yesterday, Abbas got his way. A Fatah spokesman has condemned the suicide bombing at a bakery in Eilat, in which three Israelis lost their lives. But Fatah terrorists have also taken responsibility for the attack, along with other Palestinian groups. Indeed, an announcement endorsing the attack can be seen on the Arabic Web site of Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, flanked by a portrait of Yasser Arafat ( This attack came four days after Abbas and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke on the same panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos and shortly after Israel released, ostensibly to the control of Abbas, $100 million in Palestinian tax revenues collected by Israel. While Abbas has repeatedly called for a "One Gun" policy, whereby all militias would be dismantled and become part of one security force, he has not even applied this policy to Fatah's own terrorist wing, the Aksa Brigades. Moreover, it is known that many members of this Fatah group are employed by Abbas-controlled security forces and receive salaries from the PA. Nor is it just on the issue of terrorism that the lines between Fatah and Hamas are, to put it mildly, blurred. At that same Ramallah rally, for example, Abbas said, "The issue of the refugees is nonnegotiable. We will not give up one inch of land in Jerusalem and we consider the settlements illegal. We also reject any attempt to resettle the refugees in other countries." If this is "moderation," it is not of the sort that is compatible with a two-state solution. In the context of the Eilat attack and the growing intra-Palestinian violence, the policy of Israel and other countries of providing funds and even weapons to Abbas in the hopes of encouraging "moderation" needs to be reexamined. There are better ways to promote real, not just relative, moderation among Palestinians. We note that Saudi Arabia, for the first time, has invited all Palestinian factions to join in talks to end the fighting between them. This squares with the claims of a confluence of interests between Arab states, Israel and the US, all of whom are concerned with the Iranian threat. The Saudis, in this view, have a strong interest in reducing the temperature of the conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestinian areas that are distracting the US, which is leading the international community's confrontation of Iran. That the Saudis and other Arab states are concerned about Iran is not theory, but fact. It is also undeniable that if the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi situations were improving rather than deteriorating, the US would be in a better position to concentrate on stopping Iran's nuclear program and its support for terrorism. Clearly, however, the Arab states can and must do much more than host meetings to help turn the tide. After all, what good would reconciliation among Palestinian factions do if all they can agree on is to attack Israel and a strategy of destroying the Jewish state through the "right of return?" What is necessary, then, is for the Arab states to lead Palestinians of all factions away from violence and away from radical positions that are inconsistent with a two-state solution. This means openly stating that Palestinians may only "return" to a Palestinian state, and not to Israel. It also means opening official contact between Arab and Israeli leaders, particularly in their own capitals. The Arab states say they want peace. They say, privately, that they are very concerned about Iran. Now is the time to take real action on both fronts, by working directly to defuse the Iranian campaign to ignite the entire region.