Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to move up the Palestinian Authority elections was received with a round of applause by Fatah officials in Ramallah, but also they are not at all certain that they can defeat Hamas in the elections, if in fact such elections do take place. Muahmmad Dahlan and his friends are already working to establish a young and attractive "dream team." They hope that Marwan Barghouti will lead the team.
"The key is still in the Israelis' hands," sources in Fatah said. "Without a serious diplomatic agreement, we will not be able to fight against Hamas." Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority know that the road from Abbas' declaration to the voting stations is very long and complex. Abbas, in spite of his declaration that he does not fear Hamas' threats of civil war, will do anything to avoid such a war.
On the other hand, Abbas and Fatah may reap the benefits if the international community eases the siege on the PA, and if there are signs of a diplomatic process, manifested in an ease of restrictions on the population, a release of prisoners and a release of the funds frozen by Israel. Fatah officials hope that an encouraging diplomatic atmosphere tips the scale in their favor, although according to the polls, the majority of the Palestinian public still supports Hamas' stance on the question of recognizing Israel.
Israel claims that it has nothing to do with what is happening in the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert even forbade his ministers to comment on the issue.
But sources in Fatah believe that Israel has a key role. According to them, a diplomatic agreement with Israel may put them back at the center of the stage. And what solution are they after: A Palestinian state on all the 1967 territories, including East Jerusalem, including a solution to the refugee problem.
"The equation is a just solution based on the '67 borders, or alternatively, a reality in which Israel finds itself with a strong Hamas and a crushed Fatah. Without a real diplomatic solution, we will not be able to fight against Hamas, which will happy to claim that also recognizing Israel did not get us anywhere."
So just why would Abbas call an election in which his party stands an incredibly good chance of losing ground to Hamas? Perhaps he's counting on the three aces in his hands on which to base his electoral fortune.
He has monetary backing of the Bush Administration for his electoral war chest. He can count on the Bush Administration to bring every last ounce of pressure on the Israelis to force the Olmert administration to acquiesce to any Palestinian demands; as never before has an Israeli Prime Minister been so inept, nor so vulnerable to American pressure or likely to be so again.
The Olmert Kadima fraction has no political past, present or potential achievements to offer the Israeli public in the eventual Israeli election. As it stands today, Kadima’s record is one of general incompetence, corruption and a largely unsuccessful war record/performance with only the hope of more of the same.
Olmert has repeatedly made two consistent claims. Despite the obvious failure of the disengagement policy in Gaza he continues to hold onto his policy of “convergence” and the desire to be the Israeli Prime Minister to draw the final borders of Israel. Any other considerations, such as, security are largely irrelevant.
Abbas’ desperate need of serious Israeli concessions and Olmert’s desperate need to retain power and establish a legacy dovetail nicely. Throw in the scare of a fully entrenched Hamas run Palestinian Authority, and coupled it with American pressure on the Israeli’s, and you better believe Olmert will give away the farm; many farms in fact, and not one of them his to give away.
Why would the Americans agree to apply the pressure? Because the Bush Administration is desperate to raise their profile and street credentials in the Arab world thinking it would buy the influence and Arab allies to help mediate successfully in Iraq. It would also go a long way in pacifying the American public who has grown disenchanted with the way the war has been conducted in Iraq.
The Bush Administration is desperate to turn the Iraq scenario around and believes it can do so if it can enlist the support of neighboring Arab nations. Furthermore, successfully mediating an agreement between the Israeli-Palestinians would give Bush a meaningful legacy and enhance the record for Republicans to run on in 2008.
The Bush Administration has placed all its hopes on an Abbas victory and is desperate to do anything to ensure it. Rather than remaining neutral within internal Palestinian politics the US has invested all its remaining international political capital and an astronomical amount of money on Abbas. Abbas may lead a terrorist organization but he represents the American bought terrorist.
What the Americans refuse to fully appreciate is how radicalized and entrenched the Palestinian general population has become and the electoral success of Hamas proves it beyond doubt. Arafat tilled the soil well. The Bush Administration fully buys into the argument offered by official Palestinian apologistas which maintained Hamas was successful in the PA elections largely because Fatah was corrupt and in need of reform. When in truth it was the fully radicalized agenda of Hamas and its radical track record which appealed to the Palestinian electorate’s heart.
Corruption within governance in the Arab world is largely accepted as a matter of course and considered the cost of governing. It does not carry with it the same taint which dooms American political candidates. In ascribing American values and culture to the Palestinians electorate is to seriously misjudge the reality on the ground.
Palestinians have shown repeatedly that it is not longing for the peace made between enemies which lie deep within the Palestinian soul but the peace that comes from absolute victory from vanquishing the enemy.
Let’s play pretend for a minute and say that Abbas’ Fatah gets it desires in terms of a potential peace accord with Israel and electoral success in the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli state gets a signed agreement saying it is a peace accord with the Palestinians but the Israeli state will be flooded with refugees which it will be unable to successful absorb and be faced with the distinct possibility of bankrupting the Israeli economy.
And then what happens next to the substantial element within the Palestinian Authority which is not only heavily armed and financed by outside sources but fully radicalized? Do they go into the great political night or do they continue to use the entrenched positions which Fatah has established to launch continued attacks against the Israeli state and her citizens?
If Palestinian past performance is any measure of predicting future behaviour just remember where Oslo and the Gaza Disengagement led. Land for peace has shown itself a failed strategy when employed with the Palestinians. A Hamas victory could allow the opportunity for the Israelis to do what is needed to be done to change the concept of longing for the peace that comes from the total subjugation of the enemy from the Palestinian soul. Of course, to take advantage of that opportunity requires the Israeli electorate to elect a leader who sees opportunity where the faint hearted fear to tread.