Monday, June 25, 2007
By Tony Karon
"In the fashion that has come to exemplify its strategic and tactical ineptitude, the Bush Administration has responded to Hamas’s ouster of Fatah security forces from Gaza by madly rushing to cobble together an anti-Hamas alliance through a series of high profile gestures — the high-point of which was Monday’s Sharm el-Sheikh summit between the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authoirity president Mahmoud Abbas. The purpose is for these parties to demonstrate their common resolve to strengthen President Abbas in the face of the challenge from Hamas......
The Arab regimes are not so naive as to buy into the notion that Hamas can be excluded from Palestinian political life — it is the elected government, and speaks for close to half of the Palestinian population. In the last Palestinian election, it thrashed Fatah not only in Gaza, but also in most of the major West Bank towns and cities......Still, the basic message of the Arabs is that Hamas must be brought back within the umbrella of Palestinian unity; they know it can’t be defeated through isolation and repression.
The U.S. and Israel, of course, insist that Hamas must be isolated and that there can be no revival of the Mecca agreement. At U.S. prodding, Israel has agreed to release some of the Palestinian Authority finances it has withheld, and Prime Minister Olmert says he’ll release some 250 Fatah prisoners although none with “blood on their hands” — i.e. no Marwan Barghouti, the only Fatah leader capable of reversing the movement’s precipitous decline.......But he’s already made clear that he will take such steps only if Abbas demonstrates, to Israel’s satisfaction, his willingness to “fight terror.”
And even as the Arab states demand that Israel begin moving towards final-status negotiations with Abbas based on a return to 1967 borders, Olmert has signaled he has no interest in even opening such talks any time soon.....
Hamas defeated Fatah because Fatah had proved itself unable to end the occupation; the Arab regimes and the Fatah leaders know that the only way they can be revived and strengthened is for Fatah’s path of engagement with the West and Israel to show results, i.e. concrete steps to end the occupation; but Israel has no intention of taking steps now to end its occupation of the West Bank — together with the U.S., it is essentially expecting Abbas and Fatah to police the status quo. Which is what got them into trouble in the first place....."