By Danny Rubinstein
"The leaders of Hamas are not giving in. On the ideological plane they don't see any possibility of recognizing the legitimacy of the existence of the Jewish state in any part of Palestine. One could have expected that in the West Bank and Gaza there would be a public campaign to pressure Hamas to change its stance. That is not happening. In several public opinion surveys it even seems that the opposite is true: Hamas continues to enjoy serious support among the public, even on the issue of non-recognition of Israel.
Nor are the chairman's demands of Hamas always clear. The guidelines of the national unity government are based on the "prisoners' document," and do not meet the three demands of Israel and the Quartet (recognition, an end to violence and abiding by previous agreements).
Perhaps the most important reason for Abu Mazen's weakness is the lack of broad support in the Palestinian street. This is not a personal matter. The important point is that there is no broad support for his moderate views. In spite of the growing distress in the territories, and particularly in Gaza, the atmosphere among the Palestinians is only becoming more inflexible. This can be seen in Palestinian spokesmen's use of expressions from the 1950s and the 1960s. People, not just Hamas activists, never mention the word Israel; they call it "the Zionist entity" or "the Zionist enemy," and sometimes "the occupation government" and the "Tel Aviv government." Expressions such as "war criminals" and "murderers" are heard daily.
We should not be surprised by that. Anyone who watches the Arab satellite stations and reads the headlines in the Palestinian newspapers has for years seen only pictures of the dead and wounded along with demolished houses. Not a day passes without photographs of bereaved mothers and child amputees, accompanied by the cries of bereaved parents and by mass demonstrations at funerals for the fallen. The main stories every day in the Palestinian media are about arrests and abuse, the theft of land and property, preventing the sick and the elderly from crossing checkpoints, harassment at the checkpoints, the expansion of the settlements and the Judaization of Jerusalem.
This is seen, heard and experienced personally every day by residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and their recognition of the legitimacy of a state that does these things is steadily declining. "