Analysis / A Fight for Money, Not a Civil War

It is still too early to describe the events in the Palestinian Authority as a civil war. It is also possible that there will be no such deterioration because the struggle is now, for the most part, between Fatah and Hamas and not between citizens supporting either movement. The ethnic and religious friction characteristic of the civil wars in Lebanon or Iraq is also absent. However, the current struggle can be compared, to a significant extent, to the one that took place in Afghanistan at the end of the Soviet occupation, even though in the case of Afghanistan ethnic differences kindled the fight over resources.

Hamas and Fatah are going through what many other countries, Arab and non-Arab, experienced when political factions clashed violently over the control of resources. In the case of the Palestinian Authority, the violence revolves around the question of who will pay the salaries of some 160,000 civil servants, and especially the wages of the security forces. It is therefore possible to assume that if a solution to the problem of funds is found, the violence will also cease, especially when the two camps are faced with a unifying element - Israel's occupation.

If we are to judge on the basis of the experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, the answer lies in combining the forces and dividing the resources in an accepted manner. After all, each side in the internal Palestinian conflict recognizes that it cannot offer a solution alone. For example, Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah leadership know that even if they bring about the fall of the Hamas government and hold new elections in the PA, they will be confronted by Hamas' violent veto for any decision a Fatah-led government seeks to make. On the other hand, as Hamas has discovered, it is also unable to be the sole manager of Palestinian affairs, and Fatah cooperation is required.

This stalemate is causing the Palestinians to turn to a "national dialogue" in order to reach an agreement on sharing the resources and the jobs, and ending the violence. This is the first necessary step to facilitate the distribution of approximately $1 billion, deposited in the PA's accounts by Arab donors.

It is also fair to say that if a functional compromise between Fatah and Hamas is reached, an "ideological" compromise will also be found. This would allow Hamas to accept the Beirut 2002 formula, which recognizes Israel within the 1967 borders.

Then, Hamas can evade public recognition of Israel; and since it has kept the cease-fire for more than a year, we can move to the third condition posed by the Quartet - accepting the Israel-PA accords. It is doubtful if Israel will also meet this final condition.