Monday, July 16, 2007

Can Fatah Compete with Hamas?

Dennis Ross writing in the New Republic:

It may be fashionable among some in Washington or even Tel Aviv to believe that it is time to talk to Hamas. But to the members of Fatah and the Palestinian independents in the West Bank with whom I have been meeting, it surely is not. What you hear from them is that Hamas is made up of killers; that they want to be part of a larger Islamist empire; that they are already trying to bring Iran to Gaza; and that the worse thing to do now is to reward Hamas with recognition.

For that reason, you also hear criticism of the Saudis who are pressing Mahmoud Abbas to reconcile with Hamas and forge a new national unity government. Indeed, I was struck by the almost unanimous sentiment that the reconciliation talks which both the Saudis and Egyptians are pushing -- and Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh favor -- will not change Hamas's behavior. Instead, the story goes, Hamas will use them as a tactic to try to build its international acceptability. Worse, it would use a new national unity government to try to do in the West Bank what it has now done in Gaza.

Strong words, but is Fatah ready to compete? Can Fatah transform itself and connect again with the Palestinian public? Can its members reorganize themselves and build such a strong grassroots base that the balance of forces will change between Hamas and Fatah. (This competition might also affect the balance inside Hamas between those who are more programmatic and those who are most extreme). Hamas and within Hamas? Listen to Palestinians from different factions like Abu Kholi, a Palestinian Council member from Gaza, or Husayn Al-Sheikh, a member of the Tanzim from the West Bank, and you will hear that Fatah does not have a choice.

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1 comment:

William said...

Fatah is in trouble. It is unpopular now - as is Abu Mazin