It’s Really Hamas versus Fatah

While the Europeans were busy recasting Jerusalem in the image of Cold War Berlin complete with a wall and two governments-one free and one not-the Palestinians were busy revealing what their presumed state would look like. Follow the threads.

While the Europeans were busy recasting Jerusalem in the image of Cold War Berlin complete with a wall and two governments-one free and one not-the Palestinians were busy revealing what their presumed state would look like. Follow the threads.

In June, Fatah reaffirmed “the right of armed resistance” (terrorism) in “Palestine.” Last month, Abu Mazen said he would not run in the planned January election. This week, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) “indefinitely” extended his term and that of the Palestinian parliament, which has not met since 2007. To celebrate, Abu Mazen announced, “We will renew negotiations [with Israel only] if the settlements are completely halted and the 1967 borders recognized as the borders of the Palestinian state.”

That was just to throw you off the trail. Israel is not his problem; Hamas is his problem and it is getting bigger. And the United States is heavily invested in the run up to a potential Palestinian civil war.

Hamas described the extension of Abu Mazen’s term a “coup against the Palestinian constitution.” Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “This is an illegal decision and a political bribe to cover up for the fact that Abbas’ term in office had expired a long time ago.” Hamas celebrated its 20th anniversary with huge demonstrations and an announcement that it will “liberate all of Palestine.” Starting with the West Bank.

According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the Hamas websites contain a 61-page document entitled, “Exclusive and Unique Research: The Detention Philosophy of the Abbas-Dayton Security Apparatuses and Methods of Dealing with Them,” authored by people identifying themselves as “Hamas prisoners in Israel.”

The phrase “Abbas-Dayton security apparatuses” should worry Americans. The United States and Israel have been touting the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces trained by American Lieutenant General Keith Dayton as key to a future peace between Israel and “the Palestinians.” Five battalions have been trained and a sixth will start in January, including 2,500 officers trained since 2008-all with American tax dollars. The Obama Administration is planning to finish off ten PA battalions and has allocated another $100 million for the coming year.

The PA security forces have restored a semblance of law and order to the West Bank, permitting increased economic activity and growth, and the removal of dozens of Israeli “checkpoints.” But who are “the Palestinians”? To whom do those forces belong-and to whom will they be loyal under and what circumstances? (Questions with which JINSA readers are familiar.)

Israeli and Americans deflect the issue by saying, “They’re fighting Hamas. The more they do, the less Israel has to do,” implying that the United States has formed a Fatah security force with the cooperation of Israel to counter Hamas. That certainly is the way Hamas sees it.

In the “Exclusive and Unique Research” paper, the authors claim that between June 2007 (when Fatah was ousted from Gaza) and September 2009, there were 22,000 “incidents” initiated by PA security forces against Hamas groups in the West Bank. According to Ha’aretz, the authors say, “The research is intended first and foremost to answer Hamas’ operative needs, i.e., to prepare its members to deal with the Palestinian Authority’s operating methods, and fortify them ahead of time for the travails that lie ahead.”

Allowing for hyperbole and exaggeration in the numbers, the “travails” to which Hamas points means increased friction with Fatah. Although the combination of Israel and Fatah have created better economic and social conditions in the West Bank, Abu Mazen’s popularity in the territory is close to nil (which is why he wouldn’t run in the scheduled election) and Hamas is having some measure of success in painting Fatah with the collaborationist brush-collaborationist with both Israel and the United States. Hamas is, of course, correct. Fatah could not control the West Bank without American and Israeli support. So we are helping Fatah (which touts the legitimacy of “armed resistance” and no negotiations until Israel concedes everything) against Hamas (which demands the liberation of “all of Palestine”).

Yes, as an interim measure, it is better to have day-to-day security and economic cooperation with Fatah than not to have it. But it is an interim measure by Palestinian standards, if not Israeli standards.

Let’s assume the Fatah army is able to defeat the Hamas army and reunifies the Palestinian polity. Come on, it’s the season of miracles.

According to several sources, while Abu Mazen was out of the country trying to undermine the legitimacy of Israel (with a warm welcome in Europe), Palestinian Prime Minister Salim Fayyed-America’s favorite Palestinian-has been at odds with Lieutenant General Dayton and wants to replace American security contractors in 2010 when the current training American contract expires in March. “Fayyed has come to the conclusion that the U.S. contractors were not providing the training necessary for the Palestinian territories,” a Palestinian source said. Right now, Palestinian forces are trained in Jordan, but the United States has built two new $40 million facilities near Jericho in the West Bank. The source added that Fatah is demanding that PA security forces form the nucleus of a future Palestinian army.

At the level of a single, but still interesting source, Middle East News Line reports that Lieutenant General Dayton no longer has direct access to PA field commanders, but that “the CIA has maintained its contacts with PA commanders… [and] through the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, has provided funds to PA commanders.”

We ask, yet again, against whom this Palestinian army would fight, to whom it would be loyal. In this season of miracles, we hope for an answer.