Nothing to Sell the Palestinians

Sooner or later Hamas will fail in its war against Israel. But that does mean that there will then be a return to the days of Oslo and the two-state vision.

Abu Mazen's struggle against the Hamas government is mainly political-legal in nature. He established an "emergency government" in the West Bank that has now become a "transition government." The name is not important. What counts is that from a legal point of view this government does not have to, and of course cannot, receive the approval of the parliament, whose work has been paralyzed. A large majority of the MPs are representatives of Hamas, and a large percentage of them (residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem) are sitting in Israeli prisons - which is how Abu Mazen can attempt to transfer more powers to Palestine Liberation Organization institutions. These institutions are considered representative of all the members of the Palestinian nation, in all its diasporas, and therefore they are (at least formally) above the institutions of the PA, which represent only the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and thus constitute about half the nation.

In light of this, Abu Mazen wanted to convene the central council of the PLO this week in Ramallah, and to invite important VIPs such as Naif Hawatmeh, the founder and leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), who is considered a senior partner in the historical leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement. By means of such political and legal maneuvers, Abu Mazen and his followers are trying to unite all the nationalist factions, that is, Fatah and the leftist movements, against Hamas.

In spite of the fact that Abu Mazen's effort enjoys broad international and Arab support, the chances that it will succeed are slim. The reason is well known: Abu Mazen and Fatah have nothing to sell the Palestinian public. The vision of the independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, gradually dissipated during the years of the Oslo process. What finally destroyed it were the continuing violence and terror, the number of settlers, which doubled (from about 100,000 in 1990 to about 200,000 in 2000), and the new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and its environs. Instead of reconciliation and coexistence, is the feeling, we got an intifada, murderous attacks, separation walls, settlement blocs and an apartheid state. The Palestinian public knows that it is impossible to turn back the clock. It was not corruption and an absence of leadership that brought down the Fatah movement, and neither are they not what is causing it to fail now - but rather the fact that the political path of Abu Mazen and his friends has reached a dead end, and cannot be resurrected.

Where is all this leading? Any Israeli who has occasion these days to meet often with Arabs from the West Bank, or speak by phone with Gaza residents, can increasingly hear comments such as: We can't take it any more, we're sick and tired of it. And the continuation: If only the days of full Israeli occupation would return. Occasionally one could think that these words are being said out of a desire to find favor with the Israeli listener. But the truth is that they are being said out of despair. When the hope of establishing a state within the territories, with Jerusalem as its capital, is lost, one can undertake to fight Israel to the finish, as Hamas proposes, or give up and say, under these circumstances, let there be occupation. In other words, make the State of Israel take full responsibility for the territories.

Sooner or later Hamas will fail in its war against Israel. But that does mean that there will then be a return to the days of Oslo and the two-state vision, which has withered and died since September 2000. Rather, there will be increasingly strong demands by Palestinian Arabs, who constitute almost half the inhabitants of this land, who will say: Under the present conditions we cannot establish a state of our own, and what remains for us is to demand civil rights in the country that is our homeland. They will adopt the slogans of the struggle of the Arabs who are Israeli citizens, who demand equality and the definition of Israel as a state of all its citizens. That won't happen tomorrow morning, but there doesn't seem to be any option to its happening eventually. If there aren't two states for the two nations, in the end there will be one state.