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January 27, 2006

Fatah’s Final Failure

Imagine you’re a Palestinian.  You finally get to vote in a real election: multiple candidates, your finger dipped in ink, Jimmy Carter monitoring, the whole nine yards.

So, let’s see, who’ve we got running? Couple of candidates from different factions of Fatah, history tells us they’re fighting over who gets to steal the foreign aid; some Christian “centerist” party you never heard of, anyway they’re Christian; and there’s Hamas.  Now Hamas down here at the local level’s been running a pretty good school, a clinic, and even helping the homeless.  They’re a little extreme on the Islamic stuff; but no one really thinks Palestinian women are going back into the harem.  And they’re really nutty on terrorism but that’s not the local guys; and, anyway, terrorism happens in Israel which really shouldn’t be there.

Everyone knows Fatah is going to win.  Both CNN and al Jazeera agree.  But the Fatah crooks really need to get shaken up.  So you decide on a protest vote, send a message.  You vote for Hamas.

Whoops, almost everybody did the same thing.

Of course, I don’t really know that’s what happened; I just hope it is.  I hope the Palestinian people don’t think Israel is going to get pushed into the sea; I hope they don’t think they’ll get peace through terror.  I can certainly understand why they didn’t want to vote for Fatah.

A victory by Fatah wouldn’t have advanced the peace process.  Fatah has been unwilling or unable to rein in its own militant factions; it’s been unable to control Hamas.  And it’s been absolutely unable to deliver a better life for Palestinians despite billions in aid both from Arab brethren and the West.  Most of the aid is simply unaccounted for; hint, it’s unlikely Arafat took it with him.  Most lately, Fatah has been unable to govern in Gaza even when it no longer has an Israeli occupation to blame.

That’s why Sharon was proceeding on a unilateral path towards an enforceable disengagement and détente – wall, withdrawal, and all.  Maybe with Hamas running the Palestinian government it will be more clear to Europeans, who’ve given Fatah the benefit of too many doubts, that a peace with walls is better than no peace at all.

To be even more optimistic, perhaps some formula is found so that negotiations can happen between the new leaders of the Palestinians and Israel.  Obviously there must be a renunciation of force but history is full of clever ways to say two things at once in the pursuit of peace.  Northern Ireland is an almost successful example of this.  To me, it makes more sense to negotiate with Hamas (or some surrogate) than with Fatah who couldn’t deliver peace even IF they even wanted to and who squandered their legitimacy through massive corruption.

Unfortunately, it needs a leader as strong as Sharon to take the enormous risks involved in making Hamas even an indirect participant in the peace process.  Perhaps someone will rise to the occasion in Israel.  But this all depends on my perhaps wishful thinking that the Palestinian people voted for Hamas because they want a better life and couldn’t bear to vote for Fatah, not because they support terrorism.  And on further optimistic thinking that Hamas leaders – or a least enough of them – understand this and really do want what’s best for their people.

In the worst case, Israel and the world know more clearly where they stand with Hamas.

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