In the face of the ongoing devastation of Gaza, could some good come out of Hamas’ civil war? Martin Indyk seems to think that it might:
Whatever transpires, Gaza has become Hamas’s problem. It’s a safe bet that the real attitude of Abbas and Fatah is: Let Hamas try to rule Gaza, and good luck.
This turn of events would free Abbas to focus on the much more manageable West Bank, where he can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the United States to help rebuild his security forces. As chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas is empowered to negotiate with Israel over the disposition of the West Bank. Once he controls the territory, he could make a peace deal with Israel that establishes a Palestinian state with provisional borders in the West Bank and the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza could compare their fate under Hamas’s rule with the fate of their West Bank cousins under Abbas — which might then force Hamas to come to terms with Israel, making it eventually possible to reunite Gaza and the West Bank as one political entity living in peace with the Jewish state. It’s hard to believe that such a benign outcome could emerge from the growing Palestinian civil war. But given current events, this course is likely to become Abbas’s best option.
If Abbas is smart, that’s exactly what he would do. Let Gaza become an open-air prison and let Hamas turn it into an Islamist hellhole. Meanwhile, Abbas can concentrate on getting a real solution for the West Bank that creates an independent Palestinian state and ends the policies of terrorism that have kept the Palestinian people mired in poverty and terrorism.
Abbas is already demonstrating that he’s willing to fight corruption and get the West Bank under control. The appointment of Finance Minister Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister is a good first step. Prime Minister Fayyad is a Western-educated economist with a reputation for fighting corruption. Abbas and Fayyad still have a long road ahead of them, but with Hamas creating their own terrorist fiefdom in Gaza, their attention will be drawn away from the West Bank.
This two-state solution may be the best outcome for the Palestinians. Fatah will be able to demonstrate that the Palestinians can have a responsible state, while Hamas will end up turning the Gaza strip into a no-man’s land. With Gaza sealed off, the Palestinians can see first-hand what terrorism brings — deprivation and destruction. Meanwhile, if Abbas can control terrorism coming from the West Bank, he has an opportunity to be the kind of leader that the Palestinians have not had in a long while.
Granted, as Madeline Albright once said about Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Fatah may be more diplomatic than Hamas, but both are sponsors of terrorism. Abbas must be willing to do the difficult and thankless task of rebuilding a society that has been turned into little more than a death cult with decades of indoctrination. To turn Palestine around, Abbas will have to make significant social and political changes to bring his people into the modern world. It is not sure if he can do it, but if he does not, the West Bank may well follow Gaza into hell — and it would demonstrate that the Palestinians have done more to oppress themselves than anything done to them during the occupation by Israel.