Monday, June 29, 2009
This is a problem not only because it blocks any hope of a negotiated peace, but it also ensures the group’s ineffectiveness. While Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a pretty genuine moderate, he is also rather alone in that category.
What can Fatah and the PA offer better than Hamas? In theory, the answer is a simple one: a dedication to obtaining a state, living in peace, raising living standards, and providing West Bank Palestinians (the ones it rules) with a better life than Gaza Strip Palestinians (the ones Hamas rules).
There are, however, daily reminders by these same leaders--Fayyad excepted--that this is not the primary focus of Fatah and the PA. An interesting video is provided by the valuable and accurate Palestinian Media Watch group that illustrates this reality rather effectively.
The televised show was put on by Fatah in order to demonstrate why it is better than Hamas. With top Fatah and PA officials prominently seated in the audience, the event is a mock debate in which Fatah “proves” it is better than Hamas. How? By getting Western aid? By having better schools? By holding out the likelihood of a Palestinian state where refugees can be resettled?
No. By more effectively killing Israelis.
Here’s the transcript of the key section:
Fatah student taunts Hamas: "Since Hamas seized power, we haven't heard of any martyrdom operation [suicide-bombing]."
Hamas teacher: "It's called 'fighter's rest.'"
Fatah student: "A Hamas fighter needs rest, but a Fatah fighter doesn't need rest?!"
Hamas teacher: "Every fighter has the right to rest."
Fatah student: "Why is it that when Fatah stops fighting, you [Hamas] say they're cowards, but when Hamas stops fighting, you say it's 'fighters' rest'?"
Hamas teacher: "I don't know much about resistance [terror] and fighters..."
Fatah student: "The first shot was fired by the PLO; the first Jihad was carried out by the PLO [audience applauds], with all the other factions - but Hamas always opposed.
Hamas student: "What do you say about Hamas having kidnapped the [Israeli] soldier Shalit [still held hostage - Ed.]?"
Hamas teacher: "Ahaaa!"
Student: "By Allah, it's good."
Hamas student: "Did Fatah ever capture a soldier?!"
Fatah student: "It was the [other] brigades who captured him [Shalit] and sold him to you [Hamas]. It's a deal that you [Hamas] made for your own benefit, not for the [Palestinian] people's benefit. [Applause]
Fatah student: Remember, in Ramallah the [PA-Fatah] police arrested two soldiers - have you forgotten, teacher?!"
And what happened in Ramallah? Two unarmed Israeli reservists who were driving got lost, wandered into Ramallah, were taken into custody by the PA police, and then turned over to a mob which tore them apart and murdered them in cold blood.
This is one of the greatest achievements Fatah offers to prove its superiority.
The other main Fatah point is that Hamas is "chicken" because it no longer fires as many rockets and mortars at Israel as it did before the attack. Of course, Fatah can't win on that point either since it wasn't firing any at all. And of course the implication is that Hamas should prove it is macho and an appropriate leader for the Palestinians by attacking Israel more.
Aside from the extremism and anti-peace views this approach indicates it is simply a losing argument for Fatah and the PA. Hamas can easily out-terrorism Fatah. If that is the criterion there is no doubt who will win in this competition.
Here is the problem with the argument, so often heard, that Fatah and the PA are "moderate," often accompanied by the speaker saying, "If I were them...." or "If they were smart...."
Well, if Fatah and the PA were led by Western Europeans or Obama supporters we would indeed be better off. They'd say: All Hamas can offer is more decades of bloodshed, whereas we can get Western support, get a state really fast, resettle all the refugees there, get billions of dollars in compensation money, raise living standards, and end the violence.
But they never say that to their constituents. Why? Because that isn't their set of priorities.
For Fatah and the PA the competition in violence and martyrdom, the seeking after total victory, the refusal to make concession or compromise isn't only an immoral argument, it is also an inevitably losing one against both Israel and Hamas.
It is, however, the policy they prefer because this is what the vast majority of them believes in and they also fear that if they were to adopt a real moderate policy they'd lose popular support. To debate the latter point is most interesting--the Fatah/PA leaders may not be right to think that--but those doing such debate are outsiders. The actual leaders know what they themselves think and will do.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
By Barry Rubin*
June 16, 2009
President Barack Obama based his policy of engaging with Iran on the idea that while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a wild man, Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei was a closet moderate, or at least a pragmatist.
Now all can see that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are wedded, together at last. Khamenei is so set on Ahmadinejad’s character and policy that he risked the regime’s internal and external credibility and stability in order to reassure his reelection.
Pro-Ahmadinejad forces are now talking about this event as a “third revolution,” following on the 1979 Islamist takeover and then seizure of the U.S. embassy and the holding of all their as hostages. In other words, this is an even more radical rebirth of the movement, but this time with nuclear weapons.
Reality: 1, Obama policy: 0
Then comes the Palestinian reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech which accepts immediate negotiations and a Palestinian state at the end of the process, if an agreement can be made.
What did Obama say in Cairo? First, he said that the Palestinians, have “suffered in pursuit of a homeland” for more than 60 years. Second, he insisted that “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.”
As I pointed out at the time, the first statement was a misrepresentation of history, the second a false picture of the present.
Now if Obama was right, the Palestinians should be eager for a state. So if Netanyahu calls on them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state—what do they care if they are accepting to live alongside it permanently?—and have their own state. Yes, that state would be “demilitarized,” I prefer the word “unmilitarized,” but all that means is that they would have the same security forces that they do now. And in proportional terms, the Palestinian Authority (PA) already has more men in uniform compared to the overall population, than any state on the planet.
So here’s Obama’s solution: an independent Palestinian state, Muslim and Arab, according to the PA’s constitution for that country, next to a Jewish state.
But how does the PA’s leader—who is always referred to as “moderate” in the Western media and is more moderate than any other Palestinian leader (it’s all relative)—react?
Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for PA leader Abbas, said Netanyahu’s speech "torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region." Another top PA leader, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that recognizing Israel's Jewish character would force Palestinians "to become part of the global Zionist movement".
Think carefully about what Rabbo said. Very carefully. The Zionist movement advocates a Jewish state, Israel, exists. But the PA leadership—the top “official” leadership, the most moderate people in the Palestinian movement—are still not reconciled to Israel’s existence.
Sure, there might be a country there but not a Jewish state, in their thinking. But if it isn’t a Jewish state, why call it Israel? They have another name for the future state they have in mind for Israel to become: Palestine.
How does even the BBC, famous for its anti-Israel bias, explain this? “The Palestinians say they and their millions of descendants have the right to return to Israel - which would mean an end to its Jewish majority - but Israel has consistently rebuffed that demand.”
And Abbas is well-known as a fervent advocate of this “right of return.” So Netanyahu is right: the core of the issue is the refusal to accept Israel’s existence as Israel, not a Palestinian “pursuit of a homeland” or “intolerable situation.”
Ladies and gentleman, the facts are before you.
Iran’s regime is irreconcilable. It seeks to become the main regional power. It doesn’t want conciliation with America, it wants America’s defeat.
The Palestinian movement as presently constituted is irreconcilable. It wants to destroy Israel, not live alongside it. The movement prefers to sustain the conflict for decades rather than make a stable peace.
President Obama and everyone else, take heed and act accordingly. You already have two strikes against you and we're just getting started.