Posted by MataHarley on 5 January, 2009 at 10:37 am. 7 comments already!


One of the side stories not being told by the media is the growing rift within the Palestinians themselves… most notably the two major factions – Hamas and Fatah – battling for power. As I began talking about in yesterday’s post, Hamas launches 2nd civil war, the plot thickens in the quest for absolute power in Gaza, and possibly the West Bank.

Hamas sounds it’s second warning call… publicly asserting that after midnight on January 9th, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will no longer be the legal President of the Palestinians.

A new dispute between Fatah and Hamas has recently floated on the surface. Hamas said that on Jan. 9 next year, the presidential term of Abbas will be legally over, and the presidential elections should be held.

However, Fatah movement said that according to the basic law amended by the former parliament of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the presidential and the legislative elections should be held together at the same time.

Hamas rejected the amended basic law, and after it won in the parliamentary elections held in January 2006, it annulled the part which calls for holding presidential and legislative elections together in January 2010.

Again, ironic since Hamas boycotted the 2005 Presidential elections, and only took part in the 2006 legislative elections.

The political split between these factions became violent when Hamas seized Gaza in a coup in June 2007, and has only deepened since Hamas broke the Egyptian brokered ceasefire by launching rockets into Israel for months.

The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy reports from the West Bank on the lack of unity within the Palestinian territories for Hamas.

One cold morning this week a group of two dozen protesters walked through Ramallah carrying flags and singing quietly as they reached the steps of the Palestinian parliament building. It was supposed to be a display of Palestinian unity, a gathering of MPs of all parties brought together in shared outrage at Israel’s devastating, week-long bombing of the Gaza Strip.

But such scenes of unity are rare and mask a reality that has become glaringly apparent to most Palestinians: the vast physical, political and social gulf that now divides the beleaguered Gaza Strip from the West Bank barely 20 miles away.

After lunchtime prayers yesterday a much larger crowd gathered in Ramallah to protest, but it descended into fist fights between supporters of rival factions. Police fired into the air. Although there have been some street protests in the West Bank this week, they have been relatively few, less copious than the demonstrations in countries abroad. Instead, while there has been sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian citizens of Gaza, there was also – from the president down – publicly voiced criticism of the strip’s rulers, the Islamist movement Hamas.

A couple of dozen? “Much larger crowd”?? This hardly sounds like a united Palestine, indignant at what the world likes to portray as Israeli “disproportionate force”.

Senior Fatah official, Ibrahim Kharish, lashed out at Hamas on al Jazeera TV.

…. “We should have courage enough to say that this could have been avoided and that actually Hamas led to this,” he said. “By taking our people and our land in Gaza under its control by force they are treating the people as hostages … Hamas is responsible for what is going on in Gaza, not only Israel.”

He said Hamas, under Iranian influence, was trying to isolate Gaza to set up its own miniature Islamic state and that it had vastly miscalculated what the Israeli reaction would be to a return to rocket fire from Gaza. “The people didn’t elect them to act like this,” Kharish said.

After the civil war battles on the streets of Gaza in 2007 “resulted in the better-organised Hamas routing Fatah and seizing full control of Gaza”, the bitterness between factions failed to abate with negotiations. And Israel’s warfare on Hamas has not pulled the Palestinians together as one to fight Israel. In fact, it has done just the opposite.

In the first hours after the bombing began, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, blamed Hamas for not extending a six-month ceasefire with Israel, even though it had been violated by both sides. When demonstrations were held in the West Bank on Sunday, the second day of the bombing campaign, anyone flying a Hamas flag was roughed up and arrested by Abbas’s security forces. That apparently produced such disquiet among younger Fatah ranks that Abbas has since moderated his words, calling for a ceasefire. On Thursday he even issued an order banning criticism of Hamas.

Hamas was quick to respond, accusing senior Fatah officials of collaborating with Israel by offering advice and intelligence for targeting the bombing. Some fear Abbas’s forces may yet ride back into power in Gaza graced by Israeli tanks.

It took an outsider to capture the depth of the crisis. “This terrible massacre would not have happened if the Palestinian people were united behind one leadership, speaking in one voice,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said on Wednesday.

Or, as eaglewingz08 aptly characterized it on another thread:

This is like rooting for Iraq or Iran during their 80s war. The more dead on both sides the better the prospects for peace. It is a sad commentary, but the reality is even uglier there.

It is because of this deep divide that protests have been relatively subdued compared to prior outbreaks. And since journalists are banned from Gaza, it is impossible to accurately gauge Hamas support within the Strip itself.

The Palestinians that align themselves with neither party have another viewpoint.

Those Palestinian figures who are neither members of Fatah nor Hamas tend to see the challenge most clearly. Qais Abdul Karim, a long-standing leftist MP, said he believed Israel’s bombing was intended to force on the Palestinians a provisional state, rather than true independence and sovereignty. “The idea is to isolate Gaza from the West Bank completely and to throw Gaza into the arms of Egypt and to subject the West Bank to perpetual domination by Israel,” he said. “Our priority must be to find a way to end our division.”


Mustafa Barghouti, an independent MP who ran for the presidency at the last election, said Hamas and Fatah had been seduced into fighting over leadership of a largely powerless institution, the Palestinian National Authority – created under the Oslo accords a decade and a half ago and which gave the Palestinians the trappings of power without a state itself.

“The two sides were fighting for an authority that exists only in their minds, an elusive authority,” said Barghouti. “Now they see this authority is being destroyed by bombing in Gaza, and in the West Bank by an absence of credibility. Now everybody realises we are all targeted.

“I say to hell with this authority if it’s going to get us divided. We don’t need it. Let’s go back to a unified leadership. Now they are losing everything.”

It cannot be denied that Palestine is not yet a recognized state. Right now, only Fatah recognizes and accepts the Palestinian National Authority as the legitmate representation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank – as laid out in the Oslo Accords. Hamas does not.

Hamas and Fatah have already broken that unified leadership. And now, the only elected President of what should be the framework for a unified Palestine is going to become as illegitimate in Hamas’ eyes as the Accords themselves.

And a non-unified PA makes it easier for Israel to achieve her goals, as well as take care of another terrorism problem for the US… Iran. Or, as Wm Kristol says in today’s NYTs:

An Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror — and in the broader struggle for the future of the Middle East. Hamas is only one manifestation of the rise, over the past few decades, of a terror-friendly and almost death-cult-like form of Islamic extremism. The combination of such terror movements with a terror-sponsoring and nuclear-weapons-seeking Iranian state (aided by its sidekick Syria) has produced a new kind of threat to Israel.

But not just to Israel. To everyone in the Middle East — very much including Muslims — who aren’t interested in living under the sway of extremist regimes. And to any nation, like the United States, that is a target of Islamic terror. So there are sound reasons why the United States — whether led by George W. Bush or Barack Obama — will stand with Israel as it fights.

But Israel — assuming it succeeds — is doing the United States a favor by taking on Hamas now.

The huge challenge for the Obama administration is going to be Iran. If Israel had yielded to Hamas and refrained from using force to stop terror attacks, it would have been a victory for Iran. If Israel were now to withdraw under pressure without accomplishing the objectives of severely weakening Hamas and preventing the reconstitution of a terror-exporting state in Gaza, it would be a triumph for Iran. In either case, the Iranian regime would be emboldened, and less susceptible to the pressure from the Obama administration to stop its nuclear program.

But a defeat of Hamas in Gaza — following on the heels of our success in Iraq — would be a real setback for Iran. It would make it easier to assemble regional and international coalitions to pressure Iran. It might positively affect the Iranian elections in June. It might make the Iranian regime more amenable to dealing.

As I said in my Dec 29th post, Global jihad moves on multiple fronts, this is all one large battle of shariah law v freedom and forms of democracies. And the outcomes of these individual battles domino into the ensuing greater battle.

Hamas may have been elected in 2006, but they abused that electoral authority by seizing land and instigating a civil war with their minority party. And while both have atrocities to answer for in the treatment of their own denizens, their internal battles may just work to the good for the larger theatre at hand.

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