Gaza: Another Day, Another Fracture
According to news reports, Hamas is now the sole authority in Gaza. The next time something goes amiss, they – to paraphrase Richard Nixon – don’t have Fatah to blame. And the “blame” may well come very quickly. Since March 2006, the U.S. has provided the very minimum in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians – and nothing else. Tel Aviv has refused to forward taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority on goods that cross the border.
Fatah’s corrupt officials and ministries will quickly become Hamas’ corrupt officials. Qassam rockets fired into Israel may provoke heavier responses from the Israeli Defense Force on the theory that only Hamas members and supporters are in Gaza, thereby setting in motion a spiral of violence.
That is, this is what could happen should Washington squander the opportunity that this very real crisis presents to initiate a more radical and more positive course of diplomacy than it has managed to muster in the entire first 6½ years that George W. Bush has been in the White House.
Another scenario would start with the proposition that the danger of the whole region going up in flames demands a radical and public course change by the United States, by the Quartet (UN, EU, Russia, U.S.) and the Arab League using the Mecca agreement as the basis for discussions with no preconditions. Hamas had accepted in that agreement that it would respect all international treaties and other agreements reached by preceding Palestinian regimes, a concession that, over time, would have pulled them more and more into the multitude of tasks associated with governing 3 million people and leaving less time and reason to continue calling for the destruction of Israel.
This fracture, however, has become very personal, with both sides assassinating their opponents and looting and burning homes. Moreover, Fatah supporters reportedly have been labelling Hamas fighters "Shi'a collaborators" -- the ultimate insult to a Sunni -- because of alleged Iranian backing for Hamas.