Thursday, October 25, 2007

No more doubts

The revelations regarding the Palestinian cell that attempted to assassinate Israel’s prime minister in Jericho on August 6 put an end to the debate on whether Mahmoud Abbas is the true representative of the Palestinian people. The cell’s detention and subsequent release, in line with the good old “revolving door” tradition, takes the Palestinian Authority 20 years back, to the days of the Palestinian convention, armed struggle, and the slogan “from revolution all the way to victory.”

Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and their spokesman Erekat belong to the same organization, Fatah, which is home to the activists who planned to assassinate Ehud Olmert. This organization is indeed representative of Palestinian society – a society that is very far from peace with Israel.

The foiled assassination highlights three fundamental facts that we would do well to promptly discuss. The first one is Palestinian strategy, which has not changed. The second one is Abbas’ helplessness. The third one – what should the Israeli approach be?

Palestinian strategy: If we needed further proof, there it is: Fatah has not changed at all its good old strategy, which views Israel as the bitter enemy. Israeli leaders who push for a peace process are overly impressed by the suit-wearing trio: Abbas, Fayyad, and Erekat. The three use a European look and fluent English to sell real estate that does not belong to them to the Americans. Time and again they are revealed to be the public relations managers of a tough people that supports terrorism and is unwilling to accept any historic and territorial compromise. The three are doing the unbelievable by marketing the Palestinians as a “peace loving nation,” but the latest assassination attempt removes at once the mask on their face. What else needs to happen so that both the US and Israel realize the Palestinians are ideologically unprepared for peace? Arafat at least showed up to meetings in uniform and carrying a gun…will a suit serve to mask all crimes?

Palestinian helplessness: Here is more proof that Abbas and the Fatah organization are unable to implement their rule over even part of the territories, and with every passing day their abilities decline and the area under their control shrinks. It is no coincidence that Abbas does not want to assume responsibility for security in West Bank towns, even in a relatively easy to control peripheral town like Jericho. And if this is the case in Jericho, what can be said about Nablus and Hebron? Not to mention the Gaza Strip? There is no doubt that the bodies under Abbas’ command – the ones that collapsed like a house of cards in the Gaza Strip – are the police scarecrows that will collapse in West Bank towns as well the day the IDF departs. Therefore, while his people “chatter about peace” all that is left for the real Fatah leaders to do is to behave like a fighting opposition to Hamas dominance.

The foiled attack against Israel’s prime minister is exactly the pattern of activity expected of Palestinian opposition – an inter-organization competition over terrorism hegemony. It is easy to predict that if, heaven forbid, the assassination would have succeeded, Fatah would have won the next elections by an overwhelming majority because only a major terror attack is the key to political success across the territories, rather than an agreement with Israel.

The Israel angle: We could assume that in wake of the attempted attack, Abbas will attempt to deny these were Fatah men and that they do not even appear on the list of people who receive salaries from the organization, justify the cell’s release from prison with claims of “insufficient evidence,” promise it will be detained again, or say that those were Hamas members who sought to create a quarrel between Fatah and Israel. It is also likely to assume that Israel’s contacts with Fatah will continue.

It’s a waste of time. If the group that planned to assassinate Israel’s prime minister indeed belongs to Fatah’s armed struggle, and Abbas indeed knew that, the prime minister should be careful of the guest that has been visiting Jerusalem as of late. And if Abbas is so weak and has such feeble control over his own organization, who exactly are we talking peace with?

The writer served in various posts in the territories and currently researches Palestinian society at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion

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