Saturday, June 16, 2007

Without Fatah-Hamas talks, the US and the West will likely escalate, re-arming Fatah

Director of the Egyptian Mukhabarat, Omar Suleiman, was angry and agitated when he learned on Wednesday of the unexpected and sudden rout of Fatah in the Gaza Strip, and he summoned Mohammed Dahlan, Rashid Abu Shabak and Samir alMashharawi, the three top Fatah security officials in Gaza, for what Al-Quds al-Arabi describes as a violent reprimand, demanding to know what happened to the millions of dollars in support that have been funneled to them, and accusing them of having deceived him about the situation in earlier meetings. Similarly in Ramallah, the reporter says Fatah officials were considering bringing unspecified charges against Dahlan and others for their behavior in this. Dahlan's excuse is that he was in Cairo for knee surgery so he was legitimately absent from the scene of these defeats. The other two are going to try to shift the blame to others, the journalist says. But it is important to note: The anger and the accusations have to do with the poor military and security performance, and there isn't any suggestion of any rethinking of the underlying strategy of confrontation.

On the contrary, Al-Quds al-Arabi says in its lead editorial, the expressions of willingness to negotiate have come from the Hamas side via statements by Haniya and Khalid Meshaal, the latter suggesting talks with Fatah under Arab sponsorship. By contrast, Fatah is being encouraged in its hard line rejection of talks by the United States, the European "quartet", and the Arab regimes. If this approach prevails, the editorialist says, the result will no doubt be a ratcheting up of the tension. He writes:
What is certain is that a deep rift has been created that will be difficult to bridge, and the Hamas victory in Gaza could well be the beginning of a long series of struggles, because this victory opens the door [to the United States and others] to converting the political support by America and the West for Abbas into military support in preparation for another confrontation, perhaps more bloody than the last. This will be particularly the case if their support is translated into actual new arms deals, and if the disillusion of some Fatah people can be re-recruited, this time into a fight against Hamas and not against Israel, thus diverting the Palestinian people and the resistance from its primary target, which is the occupation.
The only way to avoid this kind of escalation, says the editorialist, is for the two main factions, Hamas and Fatah, to resolve their differences by negotiation, but already Abbas' political advisor has tried to shut the door to that by saying Abbas won't negotiate with what he called putchists. In these circumstances, outside Arab parties need to intervene forcefully to sponsor such talks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Director of the Egyptian ...summoned Mohammed Dahlan...demanding to know what happened to the millions of dollars in support that have been funneled to them, and accusing them of having deceived him about the situation in earlier meetings."

Wow. Men who would betray their own nation would deceive others. Whod'a thunk it.

I'm curious how much support could Abbas have in the west bank? How could he be seen as anything other than a stooge? Still, I think the US/Israel will make an example of Gaza as a warning to the West Bank...this can happen to you if you support Hamas. And that may be all the "support" Abbas needs.

6:09 AM  
Blogger badger said...

You're right it seems implausible that Abbas would have a lot of real popular support (or any) in the West Bank, and also about the liklihood of US/Israel trying to make an example of Gaza. But nobody seems to have seen the collapse of the Fatah outfit in Gaza coming, so who really knows...

6:28 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Would de Gaulle negotiate with Vichy?

There is nothing to discuss. The idea that Fatah is in the business of resisting the Israeli occupation is laughable. Jewish colonies sit within easy mortar distance yet no mortars ever fall on them. Single roads serve to supply these settlers but, for some reason, the roads are never barricaded, the supply convoys never ambushed.

Fatah have been Israel’s poodles for more than 40 years.

The real battle will be in the West Bank, whose people now have a stark choice of whether to live under the Zionist or Persian jackboot. After 40 years of collaborationist leaders, if Hamas is able to pull off a year or two of economic independence with no Taliban-like edicts, the Palestinian people may f eventually support their conquest of the West Bank, and you can then be certain that the building of new colonies will come to an abrupt halt as the mortars start flying and the highway ambushes start happening. The 1967 borders might then even start to be taken seriously as a solution as all those weapons the US and the Eu are going to start sending Fatah start falling into Hamas’ hands.

But early signs are mixed at best; the talk of summary executions and dragging bodies through the street has a very un-Hezbollah feel to it. For Hamas who have conquered territory by revolutionary military force, there are two models, Mao or Hezbollah. To have any chance to succeed they will need to seriously emulate Hezbollah’s competence in civilian matters and not pull any Mao-like cultural revolutions by attempting to install Sharia law on the mainly secular Palestinians.

But meantime we get to see US and EU diplomats continue to play Weekend at Bernies dragging the political corpse of Fatah to all kinds of quartet meetings. Only the incompetence of Hamas could ever revitalize this collaborationist movement.

But Israel will accomplish one short term goal: the highway link between the West Bank and Gaza that the US has been pushing on them is history.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also the sight on television of armed Hamas triumphalists taking over the President's office and Arafat's house and trampling on the posters of Arafat and Abbas may play well to Hamas constituency but bespeaks Hamas hubris. If so fatal. Arafat is still revered by the majority of Palestinians as the symbol of their resistence. The Palestinians in the West Bank will rally behind Abbas if this continues.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't count Hamas out just yet. They have made clear reconciliation is their goal. Fatah officers have been released and they have made clear they aren't imposing Islamic law. Khaled Meshal has even called Abbas the 'legitamate' president. Of course they don't believe that, but they understand that they need to demonstrate to the public that if there is any conflict, it was initiated by others (at the behest of the west) and that Hamas has made every effort for compromise.

I think Hamas has learned well from Hizbollah but I think Israel will try very hard to strangle Gaza.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever the "collaborationist" sins of Fatah, whatever its corruption and abuse of power, Arafat, Abbas and other PLO luminaries have been fighting for Palestinian liberation for more than 4 decades - long, long before Hamas was ever thought of.

Abbas' credentials as a hero of the struggle are carried in the memories and myths of the Palestinian people.

Even I, no great fan of Arafat, winced at the sight of islamist upstarts trampling all over his face, along with that of Abbas, so what would be the reaction in the West Bank?

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arafat had an approval rating of about 15%. He was "popular" only insofar as he was hated in the west. He promised a fair settlement based on the '67 borders but in the end acted like the face of the occupation. Everyone in the West bank knew this. Hence the 15%.

The Palestinians also have a distrust...and a healthy one...for any leader that has the "full support" of the U.S. Support for what? To be the smiling face of Bantustan?

This is crystal clear to Palestinians. That is why Fath abandoned their posts with hardly a fight. In the next year, the same may happen in the West Bank.

At which point Abbas will form a government in exile with the "full support" of the U.S.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lysander, Arafat only had a 15% approval rating among Palestinians? That's very interesting and news to me. What's your source?

3:41 PM  
Blogger badger said...

If I could interject, I don't know about 15% but it was pretty close to that at the end. Googological research indicates Arafat's approval rating was in decline from over 60% in the false optimism after Oslo, to a low of 24% just before Israel isolated him in Ramallah. The 24% is referred to here After that sympathy gave him a bounce. The idea that he bequeathed great latent popularity to the likes of Abbas, is pretty silly to say the least.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the likes of Abbas"? You are very versed in Arab media and I'm not so you would know much more of current thinking and are no doubt right. My knowledge for years of Abbas was as Abu Mazen, dedicated, indefatiguable PLO from the beginning. Forty years. Ah well, times change. Should be remembered, though, West Bank is much more secular than Gaza, far less crowded, better off economically and far more PLO orientated. Hamas did not win by that much in the WB in the last elections to justify it tempting fate imo..

Re the poll - 24% given the time it was taken is not that bad. Significantly better than 15%?

Arafat is an iconic figure in the Palestine Liberation Movement and in much of Arab world. The looting of his house and the trampling of his face by Islamist Palestinians on Arab TV was not a good look, no matter what spin is put on it.

4:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the 15% was a misrecollection on my part. Sorry. But I did find this Salon article from 2002 stating "around 20%"

"People have no choice but to rally behind Arafat now," said one West Bank man, speaking on condition of anonymity. Before Israel isolated him at his Ramallah compound, Arafat's approval rating was hovering around 20 percent in polls cited by the BBC and others. But now, pictures of the Palestinian leader trapped in his headquarters, working by candlelight, are circling the globe, bringing Arafat his greatest glory since Oslo. In fact, Israel's military campaign has so far had the exact opposite of its desired political outcome, which was to isolate and discredit Arafat."

The point to remember, however is that Arafat was unpopular when he was scene as collaborating with Israel and became instantly more popular when he was resisting.

Abbas no doubt does not see himself as a collaborator. I'm sure he sees himself as a realist. Then again, so did Phillipe Petain. He was also a WWI hero.

Abbas has the opportunity to pull the rug from under the U.S/israel simply by sticking to the Unity Government and refusing to legitimate the Israeli game of constantly trying to make himself a "partner." Let Olmert work at being partner...or not. But Palestinian unity, which means standing by election results, not trying to undermine them, would bring Abbas credibilty and popularity.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Arafat is an iconic figure in the Palestine Liberation Movement and in much of Arab world. The looting of his house and the trampling of his face by Islamist Palestinians on Arab TV was not a good look, no matter what spin is put on it."

Yes in the PLO which doesn't account for much after the OSLO accord and its subsequents failure as for the Arabs I'm one and I'm telling you Arafat was a front man for Arab regimes and was nothing more than a stooge who gave his services to the Highest bidder ....and did what he was paid to do were it be Libya, Saudi Arabia or at the end Israel and America his only allegiance was to a Palestine in which he was president... and the Arab world have seen enough of him to see right through it....I dare you to show one media outlet that isn't pro-PLO that is angry at the trampling of his picture or pillaging of his house ..... if you knew anything you would know that when he was barricaded in Ramallah he sent millions of dollars from international aid to his Christian wife, in Paris, at a time his people were dying from the occupation me nobody has respect for him or anyone like him ( sadat ? ) anybody who sells out his people and country for his own personal interests is nothing but a traitor and thats what he ended up being and thats how people will remember him...

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would be interested to see some translations of what the West Bank Palestinian media is saying? Or are they all in the hands of the PLO?

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on Cairo's stance at the Egyptian blog arabawy:

A “senior security source close to the Egyptian security (Mukhabarrat) team returning from Gaza” told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Mubarak’s regime’s main concern now was how to “deal with an Islamic state on its borders.”

And in what could only be described as an attempt by the regime to distance itself from the current defeat by the Fatah (Egyptian-trained) forces in Gaza, the security source added that the reasons for the fighting in Gaza was “Mohamed Dahlan’s group which controls all security services, and fights in the Gaza Strip following his commands. What appears to be a conflict between Dahlan’s group and 70% of the Palestinian people. Egypt does not have the power to exclude this group. Hamas and Fatah’s Central Committee doesn’t want this group either, but it is imposed by US and Israel.”

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Or are they all in the hands of the PLO"

Thats supposedly a satirical question but unfortunately its not funny .... I wasn't referring to any Palestinian media sources as none have any independence right now due to the volatile situation. If even the Hamas members of government in the West Bank went into hiding, how do you expect the journalists to react?
I was referring to Arab sources in general none of them, governmental nor public, show any sympathy for Arafat today.
Finally, my reply was a reply to your initial statement that Arafat is an Icon in the Arab world again my question to you is where did you get that from? If you can't read Arabic and obviously don't know any Arabs apart maybe some un-educated ones .... where is your info from? and from where do you draw the confidence in your statement from? me it seems your speaking for a group of people you know nothing of, merely to present your self as an anti-terrorist ( against Hamas ) when the PLO were themselves considered terrorists for a long period of time until they succumbed to western terms and got nothing in return for it .... to me your confidence is mere ignorance nothing less.
Arafat was forced to make Abbas prime-minister by the west and nobody wanted him in Palestine that is when given the opportunity the Palestinians democratically chose Hamas. Abbas has no authority to hold any position if it wasn't for western backing and the PLO ruled both the West bank and Gaza for more than 10 years, they couldn't protect or provide for their own people all they were busy doing was trying to protect Israeli's at the expense of their own countrymen .... Its seem the Western notion of Democracy in the Middle East is for the Western governments to freely rule the people of the Middle East ?

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a blog posting an article written 12 days ago by Dennis Ross describing what is going on today, i.e. he predicted it ( it was planned but not effectively carried out ) .

4:06 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you both for those two links. The al-Masry al-Yaum piece shows Egyptian officials pointing the finger after the event at the US and Israel for having supported Dahlan and his security outfit, triggering this revolt, which in itself is a point well-taken, but as the blogger points out, it doesn't follow that Egypt wasn't part of the scheme.

The Ross piece is a strange one. (It was actually published in the WaPo on June 4 where I didn't see it and I guess a lot of people didn't). As anarab says, Ross predicted exactly what happened, (pointing the finger at Egypt, interestingly) but it is also interesting that he talks about the possibility of a differential help-Fatah abandon-Hamas policy as if that wasn't already US policy. An interesting case of a US insider telling people a catastrophe was coming without telling them the important role of US policy in triggering it.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually there was another piece I read, but I couldn't find it again. In it the head of Egyptian security services Omar Suliman is said to have called Dahlan and given him some harsh word for not being able to defeat Hamas after all the money, equipment and training they had provided his forces .... his excuse ( Dahlan ) was that he was in Egypt at the time having an operation on his Knee.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It wasn't a satirical question. If the West Bank media is just an arm of PLO propaganda then what it has to say about the current situation is of no value. If there are independent outlets I would expect Badger to know of them and it would be interesting to learn their reactions.

"Where did I get that from?" As a history addict have had an almost obsessive interest in Israeli/Palestinian politics since being school student in the early '60s. Both my father and uncle served in the Australian forces in the ME in WW2. My uncle spent weeks in the Gaza Strip, got to know many Arabs and benefited from their hospitality and wrote long, detailed, fascinating accounts of life there (early '40s) in his family letters. Both my uncle and father were very critical of the zionist expansion and dispossession which was a useful viewpoint to hear in the 60s where, like most of the Left in those days, the Zionists were the heroes..

Result was have followed the PLO very closely since the late 60s. In a sense I "grew up" with Arafat and Co. Saying that I represent myself as an "anti terrorist" because I am defending Arafat is ridiculous - the PLO were the masters of terrorism, long before the Islamists came on the scene. I don't like terrorism but also don't take moral attitudes about it. Terrorism is a fact of life. The Zionists invented the modern form of it so my view has always been they can hardly complain? But so there is no misunderstanding: I am a believer in the two state solution based on the '67 boundaries and always have been.

Anyway to me Arafat always was an icon in the Arab world, but guess things have changed these days. However it is West Bank Palestinians who's opinions are crucial in the current crisis in my view. I believe the sight of Arafat being trashed in Palestine by Palestinians would have been quite shocking to most of them.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Randal said...

Excellent work, as usual, Badger.

Appears to me we will soon have an indication of Hamas' strength in relation to Fatah's in the WB too. It looks as though Fatah has chosen a path of confrontation rather than acceptance, in response to the Hamas fait accomplis in Gaza. Abbas probably had no real choice in this - if Hamas thought he might accept their action, they perhaps miscalculated.

Undoubtedly, Fatah will have a lot of material support from the US etc, as well as the backing of a substantial minority of Palestinians. However, whatever Fatah's material strength in the West Bank, it does appear they have forfeited the moral high ground that is a critical component of success in any military/political endeavour, and especialy in a civil war situation - in this, the advocates of "4th generation war" theory are surely correct.

Thus, as usual, by supporting one side materially, the western powers simultaneously cripple them in the moral sphere.

The Palestinians will now probably face the all too familiar horror of the struggle between, on the one side, a rising popular ideologically distinct force that lacks material and logistical power but holds the moral high ground, and, on the other, a corrupt and morally bankrupt established force with overwhelming material strength but little or no moral legitimacy. It is likely Fatah will again face numerous defections when it confronts Hamas in the West Bank, although maybe to a less extreme extent than seems to have been the case in Gaza.

We've seen this before many times. It can go either way, but I think the only way it ever ends without monstrous levels of brutalising violence and destruction is when the rising force achieves a quick victory.

And as usual, we in the west are backing the wrong side.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Randal said...


Anyway to me Arafat always was an icon in the Arab world

Seems to me you grew up during a period when Arab socialism/nationalism was the rising force, attracting the idealists and inspiring the heros of the Arab world (I write this from the Arab perspective - clearly the Israelis would have a different one). Those days are long gone, and the remnants of that tide have been tired and corrupt for decades now.

The new inspirational idealists of the Arab world are in the islamist movements, and their best exemplors are in Hezbollah and perhaps Hamas. These organisations will ultimately be corrupted by time and power, if they succeed, or exhausted by defeat and loss, if they fail. But for the moment, they are the best hope for the Arabs, however little we may like their ideology ourselves.

Ironically, the quick triumph of these movements is also in the best long term interests of the west and even, perhaps, of Israel (not counting the settler thieves, of course). Often, only the hardliners can successfuly make peace in long term civil conflict situations. Israel's best way out of the trap it is in would probably be to agree the offered hudna with a Hamas-controlled Palestine state, and then seek to come to a broader agreement as time goes on. Israel, and the west, can possibly materially "defeat" Hamas, but in doing so would merely set the scene for the next wave - perhaps a Palestinian al Qaeda.

As usual, our "leaders" are mis-leading us. The same goes for Israel, but they are likely to pay a higher price.

3:48 AM  

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