The most peculiar thing about the bloody events in Gaza is the speed with which the Hamas militias have succeeded in overcoming all the official Palestinian Authority security mechanisms, which were subordinated to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The official mechanisms numbered tens of thousands of soldiers. They had at their disposal weapons, equipment and installations, but all this did not help them. The resistance by the forces and the commanders of the Fatah movement to the attacks by the operational units of the Hamas Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades lasted for barely 48 hours. How did this happen?
The usual answer is that the Fatah people and commanders in those mechanisms did not want to fight at all. They surrendered because they did not see this war as their war. As far as most of the Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip are concerned, and certainly as far as the Hamas activists there are concerned, the war was a Hamas war on Mohammed Dahlan. And why should they endanger their lives to protect Dahlan and another few dozen of his people, who are thought to constitute a corrupt and criminal gang?
And indeed, after Dahlan and his people fled from Gaza, and after the Hamas people cruelly executed Dahlan's people who remained in the strip, at the end of the week the government of Ismail Haniyeh tried to create the impression that life in Gaza is returning to normal. The firing of Qassams on Sderot has almost ceased, and it has been promised that British journalist Alan Johnston will be released and that perhaps the negotiations to release Gilad Shalit will also be renewed.
The Hamas people have even released Fatah commanders who are not suspected of corruption or of connections to Dahlan. Ahmed Hilas, one of the most prominent Fatah leaders in Gaza, has remained in the city and is talking with the Hamas leadership. Other senior Fatah people who served in key positions under Yasser Arafat, such as former government ministers Farih Abu Madin or Nahad al-Rais, have remained in Gaza and no one is hassling them. Hamas, then, is sending out a clear message that it has no quarrel with the Fatah movement or with the legitimacy of the PA chairman; the problem seems to have been with the corruption and flawed behavior of Dahlan and his people. Now that they have finished settling the account with them, Hamas is prepared to embark on negotiations to arrive at a compromise with Abu Mazen.
There is not a chance that this will work. After the events of last week there is no way that Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership will succeed in conducting a dialogue with Abu Mazen. The rupture between Haniyeh and Hamas in Gaza, and Abu Mazen and Fatah in the West Bank, seems impossible to mend. Abu Mazen and his emergency government in the West Bank will gain broad international recognition and aid, and Haniyeh and his government will be under siege. The balance of power in the relationship is now definitely in favor of Abu Mazen.
But things cannot continue this way for very long. The problem was not the cruelty and the corruption of Dahlan and his people. Corruption and cruelty on the part of political leaders are indeed well known among the Palestinians, but they are also known among the leaderships of peoples worldwide. The Palestinians, like people in many other places, are prepared to forgive corruption, as long as the leaders do well by the people and bring them prosperity and well-being. The problem that Abu Mazen, Dahlan and Fatah have is that they have dragged their people down to a terrible low point, to a life of poverty, distress and siege. The political track that they have followed for decades, especially since the recognition of Israel in the summer of 1988, has led to a dead end. The blame for this dead end certainly falls on Israel, but what interests the battered Palestinian public is the fact that their leaders, who had pinned their hopes on Israel, have led them into this situation.
Therefore, the present crisis is a profound one - one of the worst that the Palestinian public has known for years. And to a large extent it is also our crisis. A crisis of a State of Israel with which the peace process has collapsed and is not able to rehabilitate itself.
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