Having just returned from Ramallah and talking to Palestinians there, it is clear to me that if anything positive is to come out of this tragedy it is that Palestinian factionalism must end. The Christian Science Monitor today reported a letter signed to Mahmoud Abbas by frustrated Fatah activists arguing that "we were used to the situation in which Fatah was the leader in any confrontation against the occupation, and for the first time, we find ourselves outside the standoff. This is going to cost us dearly, especially when it comes to public support, and it is going to harm our credibility in the eyes of the people."
There is only one way out for Palestinians, and that is for a Palestinian unity government, whether Washington or Tel Aviv likes it. My sense from talking to people is that they are fed up with Palestinian infighting. If Abbas thinks he can do what America will demand and go back to Gaza "on an Israeli tank," as they put it in Ramallah, he will be committing "political suicide," as one Fatah activist pointed out.
Fatah and Hamas will have to work out their differences and somehow get beyond the fact that they have crossed way too many red lines with each other to the detriment of their own people and the justice of their cause.
Abbas without his own people is an empty shell of a leader who will not be able to make any peace with Israel. He must make the choice of not being Hosni Mubarak in Ramallah and listen to his own people, for it is only in and through their will that he can hope to continue as president of the Palestinian Authority.
Deborah A. Gordon
Jan 15 2009 - 2:55pm