Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Missing the government of thieves

By Amira Hass

"Slogans shouted at rallies sound better when they rhyme. "Not Ismail, not Haniyeh, we want back the government of haramiyeh." Haramiyeh means thieves, and the protesters in Ramallah - Palestinian Authority workers who have not received their salaries for the last seven months - shouted what can be heard in conversations in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: Hamas may be clean, but the Fatah thieves are preferable. After all, the reasoning goes, when Fatah was in power, our salaries were assured.

The Fatah governments bequeathed to the Hamas government a dependence on the funds of donor nations. This year, the donor states decided that they would not let the Hamas movement get the best of both worlds: refraining from recognizing agreements that formally made the establishment of a "government" possible, while receiving the fixed donations. That is logical.

But while Fatah is demanding that Hamas recognize the negative balance of its brief tenure, the Fatah movement and its leaders - from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on down - are refusing to draw the relevant personal and political conclusions from the negative balance of their extensive time in power when it comes to the extremely important issue of the struggle for independence and liberation from Israeli occupation. On the basis of these promises, most of the Palestinian public supported the Oslo process. But the logic of "the gradual liberation from occupation," on which the Oslo Accords were based, has utterly failed.

Under the Oslo Accords, 60 percent of the territory (including the settlements) which was classified Area C, meaning under Israeli security and civil control, essentially became disputed territory, with the world allowing Israel to use its military, economic and diplomatic supremacy to annex significant portions of it in the framework of the final-status agreement.

During the Oslo period, it was proved to Israelis that "peace is possible even with settlements." The settlements expanded and developed without end, while the elected Palestinian leadership negotiated with the Israeli government, and was unable to prevent the construction of even one settlement house.

The Fatah government will be remembered as one that collaborated with the severe and comprehensive damage to the basic right of freedom of movement. The Palestinian leadership and PLO leaders accepted a system whereby they and their business, personal and political associates were granted the freedom of movement that the rest of the population did not enjoy. They owe their personal financial standing, their relative comfort and their feeling of "freedom" to a privilege that the Israeli occupation regime granted them. Under those circumstances, they could not lead a political struggle against the severe and highly destructive Israeli method of control over the Palestinians' time and freedom of movement."

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