Thursday, October 26, 2006

No Winners in This Factional Conflict

No one can predict the security, political and social consequences if the elected Palestinian government was overthrown by a US backed junta.

By Dr. Daud Abdullah
(senior researcher a the Palestinian Return Centre, London)

"Without the excessive foreign interference and meddling in their internal affairs Palestinians would not have got to this stage. Unfortunately for them the age-old tactic of ‘divide and rule’ is having its effect here. A mere five months after the Palestinian parliamentary elections Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed that he approved the transfer of arms and ammunition to Mahmud Abbas’ Presidential Guard in the West Bank in order to strengthen him against Hamas (Ha'aretz, 6/14/06). Additional arms shipments were received from Europe, Egypt, and Jordan, during the past months (Reuters, 10/4/06). Meanwhile, the US, on its part, sent forces to train Abbas’ Presidential Guard. Some reports suggest that Abbas expanded his Presidential Guard by roughly 70% since the elections and established new training camps for them in Gaza and the West Bank. (Reuters, 10/4/06).

Given his staunch opposition to the ‘militarization’ of the Intifada it is strange that Abbas is now the recipient of foreign arms shipments. More absurd is the fact that the generous suppliers of these weapons are the same governments that imposed crippling economic sanctions against the elected government in Palestine because it refuses to dismantle its military infrastructure. How cynical that western democracies should prefer to supply guns to a starving people instead of food. On the streets many deprived Palestinians argue that if the president really wants to bring money into the territories he is capable of doing it. He apparently has his own reasons and calculations for not to do so.

Not surprisingly a growing number of Palestinians are becoming increasingly mistrustful of their president and his Fateh movement. Instead of displaying the impartiality that goes with his office he has become a partisan to the extent of opposing his own government. Needless to say that it is quite unusual for a president to go against his government. After the events of recent weeks and his poor handling of the crisis with his government many are now viewing Abbas himself as an obstacle and would rather see him resign.

In the absence of any clear political or constitutional means to depose the Hamas-led government the only option left, it seems, is military force. This is dangerous. As a resistance movement Hamas has paid a heavy price for its ideology and practice. A movement that withstood the military wrath of Israel for almost two decades and which sacrificed its most accomplished leaders for its cause would not walk away in the face of agent provocateurs or putschists.

Despite strong denials from Fateh of any collusion with the US and Israel many in the OT believe where there is smoke there is fire. Though, as a movement which dominated the Palestinian political scene for decades Fateh is not seriously regarded as an alternative to Hamas. Not only is its record of governance poor but more importantly it is today paralyzed by internal divisions and disputes.

In military terms, it is very unlikely that either faction, Fateh or Hamas, would be able to defeat the other. Even if Fatah does prevail militarily, it is highly unlikely that this would lead to a political breakthrough. Inevitably the Palestinian people would themselves question the legitimacy of such a government because it would be seen as a puppet of the Occupying Power. This is a charge the movement has always had to fend off since the signing of the Oslo accords. At the same time it would lack the constitutional authority to govern.

Crippling the Hamas government is one thing. Toppling it is another. No one can predict the security, political and social consequences if the elected Palestinian government was overthrown by a US backed junta. Wherever such coups occurred they turned out to be costly affairs that resulted in brutal dictatorships."

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