TO: Distinguished Recipients
This is not an isolated matter, though. Throughout the region, groups
reflecting the two main ideological camps in the Middle East stare
each other down politically - as in central Beirut - - or clash in the
streets with guns, as in Palestine. Pushing this confrontation further
with calls to remove one side or the other is naïve and fuels the
Abbas' problem is that widespread concern about Hamas' takeover in
Gaza is offset heavily by disdain for Fatah's performance. If Hamas is
a "gang," as Abbas calls it, Fatah is not seen as much better, and
indeed it has a much longer track record of incompetence and
These intra-Palestinian tensions are being exploited by the United
States and Israel to try and destroy Hamas by supporting Abbas and
Fatah, and by pushing a bizarre new peace process that is supposed to
kick off with a meeting at Annapolis, Maryland, in the coming weeks.
This U.S.-driven peace process is unlikely to achieve either
credibility or success if one of its main purposes is to deepen the
Fatah-Hamas split, and then to link the intra-Palestinian clashes with
the resumption of peace talks. Trying to defeat Hamas in this way runs
the additional risk of turning Abbas and Fatah into discredited
collaborators with an addiction to power.
The solution in Palestine is to merge Fatah and Hamas, rather than to
turn them into gladiators who fight to the finish as foreign emperors
watch and cheer. The bottom line for dealing with groups like these
must be a combination of two things: Their local legitimacy in the
eyes of their own people, and their international legitimacy in terms
of their willingness to abide by prevailing global norms and relevant
UN resolutions and legal conventions. On both counts, Hamas and Fatah
have strong and weak points.
Together, though, they represent the collective identity, legitimacy
and strength of the Palestinian people, and that combination of assets
is something that all Palestinians should work to enhance and assert.
The American-Israeli approach, backed by increasingly spineless
Europeans and a few frightened Arab governments, is to foment discord
and a fight to the finish between Hamas and Fatah. This is a
catastrophe by any measure.
Hamas is not going anywhere, because it is the organic response of
many Palestinians to three cumulative burdens: The failure of the
Fatah-led elite, the continuing aggressive policies of Israel and the
United States and the discord, dysfunction and degradation of
Palestinian society. Trying to destroy Hamas by force after it was
democratically elected would only strengthen the very forces of
defiance, resistance and self-assertion that brought it to power in
the first place.
It is astounding that leaders of Fatah, Israel, Europe and the United
States refuse to see this simple reality and the corresponding
conclusion that Fatah and Hamas must renegotiate the formation of a
national unity government, rather than fight it out on the streets of
their shattered society.
Rami G. Khouri is a syndicated columnist, the director of the Issam
Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut and
editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star. Distributed by Agence
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