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Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Our 'Friend' Fatah"

"Our 'Friend' Fatah"
By Barry Rubin 17 June 2007

During World War One, Germany concluded that its chief ally,
Austria-Hungary, was more of a burden than an asset. As one German official
put it, that alliance was like being "shackled to a corpse."

And more than a century earlier, it was said of the doomed French dynasty,
the Bourbons, that they learned nothing and forgot nothing.

Welcome to the alliance with Fatah, sort of Austria-Hungary and the Bourbons
rolled up into one. It is now ruler of a West Bank-only semi-state after
Hamas captured the Gaza Strip from it. The United States is now backing
Palestinian Authority leader Marwan Abbas with aid and probably military
assistance. Israel's government will do everything possible to preserve that
regime, too.

This is a completely logical policy decision. It makes perfect sense given
the balance of forces and the overall situation. I understand why it is
being done. The problem is that it isn't going to work. And if we know that
now, perhaps this fact should shape policy just a bit?

But first, let's sweep the floor of all the debris that belongs in the
garbage can. There are now those who argue for backing, or at least
parlaying with, Hamas. Reportedly, the European Union is going to keep
giving aid to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

As I recall, in wartime one does not send aid to enemy-ruled states, even to
help the civilians there.  Putting on such pressure is a way to defeat the
enemy. Of course, the United States and Europe are not at war with Hamas, or
Hizballah, Syria, or Iran for that matter. The problem is that these
countries generally don't understand that these forces are at war with them.

If you send aid to the Gaza Strip, it will strengthen Hamas's rule. Aid will
be diverted to pay terrorists and buy arms. The schoolteachers whose salary
you pay will teach the children that their highest duty is to become a
suicide bomber and that Christians and Jews are sub-human. The salaries paid
are used to buy support for Hamas. Those loyal get money; those who oppose
Hamas don't. Is all this so hard to understand?

And if one wants to do something humanitarian, take the money that would
have gone to the Gaza Strip and give it to poor people in Africa, Asia,
South America, Iraq, even the West Bank. Don't finance terrorism,
antisemitism, and radical Islamism for goodness sake. Is that so hard to

The second piece of nonsense is that this is some great opportunity for
advancing the peace process. Have no doubt. The United States and Israel may
give Fatah money, trade some intelligence, and try to get them to stop
cross-border terror attacks. But serious negotiations? Forget it.

In understanding the Fatah world view let's try a simple test. You are a
Fatah official. You receive money. What do you do with it? Answer: put it
into your foreign bank account. Why? Because aside from pure greed and a
mentality of corruption, you are afraid that Hamas will take over the West
Bank, too. You will need a bankroll so that you and your family can flee
abroad and live comfortably, very comfortably.

As for Abbas, he is a loser and only if he is replaced can one even begin to
believe in Fatah's survival. He is the closest thing in the Palestinian
movement to a French intellectual, not the kind of person you would like to
have by your side in a knife fight.

Consider his first two decisions. Who did Abbas make prime minister?
Muhammad Dahlan, who has been warning about the Hamas threat for more than
five years, or some other warrior? No, Salam Fayyad, a professional
economist. Why, does Abbas intend to launch a major development and
anti-poverty campaign?  No, it's because Fayyad, an honest and experience
guy it is true, but certainly no wartime consigliore.

In addition, he has refused to outlaw Hamas on the West Bank. Perhaps he
hopes for reconciliation? Or wants to avoid a confrontation on his remaining
turf? If Abbas is thinking like a European Union bureaucrat he is really

There is something deeper in the desire to believe in an alliance with
Fatah, an organization which still carries on terrorist attacks and doesn't
believe in Israel's right to exist. This is the obsession with the peace
process idea.

Now peace is a very good thing. It is certainly preferable to war. Such a
condition far better serves the interests of average people. But,
unfortunately, a comprehensive, formal peace is not going to happen. Get
over it. Smell the coffee. Deal with unpleasant reality.

OK, so we have to deal with the cards which have been dealt. But this means
a tough policy, showing adversaries that it is costly to be enemies;
pressing supposed allies to deliver the goods.

What lesson does Iran draw from Western weakness in opposing its nuclear
weapons' program? To paraphrase the words of the Union admiral during the
Civil War, "Damn the diplomatic notes! Full speed ahead!"

What lesson does Syria draw from Israel's failure to retaliate against it
last summer and the stream of Western suitors bearing gifts? Escalate the
war against Lebanon!

What lesson does Hizballah draw from Western refusal to get tough on arms
smuggling and Europeans trembling lest it attack the UNIFIL peacekeeping
forces in Lebanon? Rearm, rebuild positions in the south and start firing
rockets against Israel again!

So, all right, work with Fatah but have no illusions or expectations. And
don't give something for nothing.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center, and editor of the Middle East
Review of International Affairs. His latest book is The Truth About Syria

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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