Showing posts with label Palestinian internal politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palestinian internal politics. Show all posts

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Where Did All the Billions of Dollars Given to the Palestinian Authority Go?


Mahmoud Abbas and his wheelbarrow. Credit: Tundra Tabloid blog


By Barry Rubin

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says that his regime is short of funds. And meanwhile a reader asks me:

"Can you please explain to me why 20 years after Oslo and billions in dollars in foreign aid, the Palestinian Authority (PA) still has not built modern hospitals?  Or rather, why do the donor countries pour money down the PA drain without expecting even some face-saving results?"

Good question. Short answer: Swiss bank accounts. In other words, a huge amount of the money has been stolen. There is nothing more distasteful than rulers of a people--especially a poor people--who complain about their subjects' suffering at the same time that they profit from it. Of course, when some foreign observer sees Palestinians in poor conditions they blame Israel, thus furthering the cause of the same leaders who, -by their intransigent policies, ensure that the situation continues.


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The personal wealth of PA "president" Mahmoud Abbas is estimated at $100 million. Add onto that millions of dollars for a large number of PA and Fatah senior officials along with the hundreds of millions of dollars that Yasir Arafat carried off and you get the idea. Remember, too, that this total of about a half-dozen billion dollars has gone to an entity ruling just over two million people over the last twenty years.

I have seen the villas of the PLO leaders in Tunis and the PA leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have followed in detail the saga not only of Yasir Arafat's personal stash but also how he used corruption to sustain his political control.  And his heirs mostly continue to run the Palestinian movement.

It is easy to forget that the PA has existed for 18 years and governed virtually every Palestinian on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip starting about 16 years ago. That's a long time. And while Israel can be accused of harassment and putting up various roadblocks, its part in this problem has been limited. Indeed, Israeli actions that have hurt the PA's economy have arisen in direct response to episodes of terrorism, violent confrontation, and all-out wars started by the PA itself.

Foreign donors have learned that no matter how great the humanitarian benefit of any project it will only get done if they pay for it and supervise it directly. One notorious example was the effort to build a better sewer system in the Gaza Strip (before the Hamas takeover) which was delayed for years while the PA did nothing to help its own people.

PA leaders have received more aid money per person than anyone else in history and yet the results have been remarkably unimpressive. The leaders have looted the money and used it as political pay-offs to buy patronage.  By patronage I mean paying off the proportionately huge security forces that guard the PA and provide jobs and salaries for its political supporters.

Note that in recent years, since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip the aid money has gone mostly to the West Bank only, though some of it is used to pay PA employees in the Gaza Strip to keep them loyal even if these people just stay at home. In other words, the level of aid has stayed the same but the number of people being supported generally has been cut in half.

Yet the PA cannot provide jobs for most of its people or build good institutions. Luxury apartments are going up but not hospitals, schools, and infrastructure improvements.  Even though the PA economy is doing well--how could it not do so given the tidal wave of aid?--the regime cannot even enforce its own law forbidding Palestinians from working on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Thousands do.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is respected in the West as a relatively honest, professional, and moderate guy who tries to stop the thievery. He is totally powerless in political terms. The leaders of Fatah have been working endlessly to get rid of Fayyad so they can have unrestricted access to the loot again, while Hamas also wants to fire him. Only the demands of the Western money donors have kept him in office. But for how much longer will that be true?
Why does the world not pay attention to this massive theft, inefficiency, and misappropriation of funds?
Simple.

--The money is not being given for development purposes but for political purposes to keep the PA going and to make sure that Hamas doesn't take over the West Bank. That's why President Barack Obama, with Israeli government support, has just overridden Congress to release even more U.S. aid to the PA. He also has not objected to the PA using that money to pay its former bureaucrats in the Gaza Strip, thus indirectly benefitting Hamas, too.

--Giving money to the PA supposedly supports the cause of peace and therefore is considered sacrosanct in the West, even though the PA isn't negotiating for peace.  From a cynical Western leadership's standpoint it can be said that at least the funding keeps things relatively quiet in the face of lots of other troublesome issues in the region. Thus, they overlook the PA's partnership deal with Hamas--which is not working out so well anyway--and remained passive until the very end about the PA's violation of its own commitments to seek unilateral independence at the UN.

--The left-controlled media and academia don't like Israel and generally refuse to criticize the PA because it is allegedly the "moderate,' 'peace-loving," "good guy" and victim. The Palestinians, after all, are non-Christian, non-Western, and--in the bizarre parody of reality prevalent today, "non-white."

And so the Western taxpayers give the money, the PA leaders steal or use the money for political purposes, and the average Palestinian suffers more from this situation than from the largely extinct "Israeli occupation." Then their suffering--despite their leaders having received more aid money per capita than any entity in history and being far less than that of people in six dozen countries--is used to indict Israel.  If, as seems to be true, Fatah has finally pried control over the money from the hands of Fayyad, whose sin has been that he was too honest, the situation would get much worse.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.


Here are some references on these issues:

Arafat Swiss Bank Account 

In July 2002, Yediot Ahranot ran a piece on PA embezzlement, claimed Abbas had funneled 70 million of PA funds to European banks via his brother Ahmad's bank accounts. In July 2003, Ahmad was one of the primary suspects in $500 million fraud case, but he managed to talk himself out of it. http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2003/09/20084913375183716.html 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Hamas Split and the Palestinian Political Mess

By Barry Rubin

There’s a serious split in Hamas reflecting the growing civil war among Islamists along Sunni-Shia lines. Each side is radical but the fact that they’re fighting among themselves weakens both of them.  

The issues involved are tactical, not strategic.  Indeed, what is ironic is that Khaled Mashal, who historically has been described as the radical, is following the approach that will seem moderate to the na├»ve while Ismail Haniya, described by the naive as the moderate is leading the ostensibly more radical faction.

Mashal signed a deal with Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas for a coalition between Hamas and the PA. Of course, neither partner trusts the other in the least. Mashal wants to take over the PA; Abbas wants to tame Hamas and recapture the Gaza Strip or—at least—present the Palestinians to the world as united in order to demand a state now without any need to make peace with Israel.

In contrast, Haniya claims that this deal is a sell-out to the PA cowardly compromisers. Haniya was just in Tehran where his hosts repeatedly warned him against the “compromising’ traitors in Hamas’s ranks.  Of course, the deal with the PA is nothing of the sort.

What lies behind this split is the broader conflict between the Sunni and Shia Islamist camps. Haniya is siding with the Iranians, who have a lot of money but are Shia; Mashal is linking up with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which borders on the Gaza Strip, is Sunni, is now gaining power in Egypt, and belong to the same organization as Hamas.

I’m putting my money on Mashal. The Iranians can provide money but only the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood can ultimately be a real patron on the ground, forwarding money, men, weapons, and material goods to the Gaza Strip. If Hamas goes to war with Israel again it will be Egypt, not Iran (even if it has nuclear weapons) that will matter in the battle.  

But there’s another irony here that makes sense. Mashal has spent most of his time outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thus, he has had more contact with Iran. Haniya has been actually running the Gaza Strip to a large extent and thus has more contact with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. I guess familiarity breeds contempt. Each man is trying to escape the orbit of the powerful big brother he has been dealing with all these years.    

The PA will not dominate Hamas and take over the Gaza Strip. Nor will Hamas be able to seize power in the West Bank, in part because Israel won’t allow that to happen.  And here’s still another irony. Since Haniya is against the deal, he and his allies will make sure that Fatah cannot campaign freely in the Gaza Strip.  

The projected PA elections will never come off and the Hamas-PA deal will break down, probably within the next six months. Yet the battle between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (aided by the Jordanian branch) and Iran over influencing Hamas will continue.

In short, all of Hamas remains hardline and the only difference is over how best to wipe out Israel and commit genocide against the Jews. The Palestinians also remain badly divided. None of the leadership can deliver peace with Israel and none of these leaders want peace (and a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution) enough to make the compromises necessary to achieve it.

There is still another important element in Palestinian politics receiving almost no attention: the future leadership of the PA and Fatah.  Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a relatively honest, relatively moderate technocrat. All of Hamas and most of Fatah loathe him. He only holds his office because the Western donors want him there. Can he last out this year or the next?

The problem is that a PA-Hamas deal requires either that Abbas or a Hamas leader becomes prime minister. Remember that the post of prime minister was originally created due to Western insistence that someone be in a position to stop Yasir Arafat, Abbas’ predecessor, from stealing the money being donated.

Then there’s Abbas himself. He has been ailing and while his periodic resignation threats have been phony ways of preserving his leverage and getting things he wants, his retirement is only a matter of time. It is hard to believe he will still be leading Fatah and the PA by, say, December 2013.

Who will replace him? You can throw around various names but don’t bother. No one has the slightest idea. There is not a single serious candidate. Presumably, the Fatah barons will make the choice. Abbas originally got the job precisely because he was so weak. None of the Fatah warlords or bosses felt threatened by a man with no popular or organizational base of support.

It was also advantageous that Abbas was the most relatively moderate of the Fatah leaders and would have the best image with the Western governments and media.

Of course, when I say relatively moderate that should be considered within the spectrum of Fatah leadership. Abbas is relative more aware of the potential benefits of  compromise peace with Israel and more realistic about Fatah’s inability to wipe out that country. Still, he is dead set on the idea that unless Israel agrees to take back any Palestinian who can trace his ancestry to pre-1948 residence there can be no peace.

If he is a tiny bit more willing to compromise on borders or anything else a combination of his weakness, intransigence, and knowledge of public opinion and his colleagues’ views prevents him from ever doing anything.

Abbas’s successor is almost certainly going to be more militant. There are two main factions in Fatah, and hence in the PA. The Arafat cronies, who are more corrupt and satisfied with the status quo, and the Fatah radicals, who’d like to see another round of fighting because they still believe in the group’s revolutionary ideology. The latter group includes both older and younger—notably Marwan Barghouti (he’s 53 years old but considered leader of the "young guard" which tells you something, doesn’t it?)—people who don’t work together.    

In short, Palestinian politics are a mess. There are fewer real moderates proportionately than you’ll find in any Arab state, where they are also small minorities. Nobody can deliver peace; no one will actually struggle to achieve a compromise peace agreement with Israel.

The international “peace process” delusion is built on never actually examining the real Palestinian political scene.  Yearning for peace is completely understandable; supporting a two-state solution is just fine. But pretending to oneself that there’s any basis for these things actually happening is quite unrealistic.  

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. He is also editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and featured columnist at PJMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). GLORIA Center site is http://www.gloria-center.org. His articles published originally outside of PajamasMedia are at <http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com>

Note: This article will be published in a different form in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and ask you to read and link to this verion..



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Palestine," The World's Most Economically and Politically Coddled Entity

By Barry Rubin

SkyNews reporter Tim Marshall points out what other reporters don't...point out.


"There are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the GDP here comes from international aid. Palestinians are among the most foreign aid funded people in the world and the place is awash with money....

Read more



Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Example of the Fantasy Middle East: Spinning the Palestinian Economy to Claim the Opposite of Reality

This article was published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and this version is somewhat different from the published one.

By Barry Rubin

Here’s the West’s biggest problem at this moment in the Middle East (there will be bigger ones soon): The creation of an absolute fantasy world in place of the actual real Middle East.

Consider an article in the Financial Times.

The lead:

“Palestinian workers in the West Bank have so far failed to benefit from the recent surge in economic growth, with new research showing that unemployment is high and rising while wages continue to fall.”

Their interpretation:

The survey offers a sobering counterpoint to recent statements by Israeli and international leaders hailing annual growth rates of more than 9 per cent in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the same time, it appears to confirm the concerns expressed by international economists and by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, who warned repeatedly that the revival of the Palestinian economy was “unsustainable” without further political progress.

My interpretation of their interpretation:

Ah, so if the Palestinian Authority lies about its economic situation, it really shows that Israel is wrong. Ha, ha. Good one. And if the economy isn’t doing well, it also shows that Israel must make more concessions and the Palestinians must be given more things! Another good one.

My interpretation:

The Palestinian economy is a mirage floating on a sea of massive foreign donations. It is still full of government incompetence, inefficiency, and corruption. If everything is so fragile and you turn it into a state that doesn’t miraculously solve economic problems. It just creates a fragile state that will depend on anti-Israel demagoguery, tolerating cross-border raids into Israel, infusions of pro-Islamist money (Iran, Syria, Muslim Brotherhood), and possibly a takeover by Hamas.

We are being told that Hamas is not to be feared because the West Bank economy is doing so well. If elections are held the Fatah rulers of the PA will win. Similar confidence made fools of them in 2006, when Hamas won the election and the U.S. State Department depended on false polls done by Fatah cadre to predict the opposite.

So when a respected journal like the Financial Times tells you that 25 percent unemployment proves that we must rush into a deal one might ask what planet they are living on.

Euphemism:

“[Israel and the Palestinians] have also clashed over a recent deal to restore unity between rival Palestinian factions, and agreement which Israel rejects.”

Unvarnished Truth

Might one of those factions be a genocidal, antisemitic, revolutionary Islamist, terrorist, client of Iran and Syria, intent on war group known as Hamas? Otherwise, why should Israel possibly reject “unity between rival Palestinian factions.”?

Never Blame the Palestinian Leadership for Palestinian Problems

There’s no discussion of what the PA might be doing wrong. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who had been continually bragging about his accomplishments regarding the economy, is portrayed as being the chief person warning about the problems. And Israel is at fault, if only for trying desperately to find something nice to say about the PA.

Making a Negative into a Positive

“The downbeat economic news offered a striking contrast to the apparent surge in political optimism among Palestinians. According to a new opinion poll...more than 83 per cent of Palestinians say they feel `optimistic’ or `very optimistic’ about the future – an increase of more than 15 percentage points compared to September last year.”

Why optimistic? Because they are hoping to avoid a deal with Israel, falsely believing (and encouraged to do so by their leaders) that the UN will hand them everything they want and that Fatah-Hamas unity will make it possible to defeat and destroy Israel.

But we know that these "hopes" will be disappointed. So what then? A return to violence? That won't help the economy. The election of a Hamas government, since now we are being told that the PA's only electoral asset--its economic success--doesn't exist?

 In other words, while this article contains very useful information its interpretations makes the overall effect of this piece another "counter-informational" exercise.

So the only thing left for me to say is this:

Readers of the world, unite! Realize that the mass media is largely inculcating false consciousness on the toiling newspaper-buying masses. If you do believe this stuff well, then, you have nothing to lose but your brains.

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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Did Fatah Expell Its Number-One Anti-Hamas Guy?

By Barry Rubin

Muhammad Dahlan has been expelled from Fatah by that group’s Central Committee, which also decided to have the Palestinian Authority (PA) prosecute him for corruption and murder, by a vote of 13 to 0 with six abstentions. Strange, I don’t remember anyone else being treated like this for a very long time. Why is this happening now and what does it tell us?

Read more

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Palestinian Politics Is About to Make a Transition For the Worse; Bad Time to Push for Peacemaking

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Palestinian Authority "president" Mahmoud Abbas is retiring and has called on Fatah to choose a replacement. Wonder who they'll pick? Watch this space. I think I know and he makes Amr Moussa look like Megan McCain.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has suffered a heart attack. The Fatah leadership wants to get rid of him and is only held back by concern over the donors giving money. His days, too, are numbered.

President Obama's argument is that Israel should make peace as fast as possible. But of course since the two "moderate" leaders aren't going to be around very long, why make concessions to be pocketed by their successors who won't implement these commitments and will definitely add even more demands.

Obama's argument is that Israel is becoming delegitimized because there isn't a peace agreement. But delegitimization by some is better than a very dangerous strategic situation. Moreover, it isn't clear that more Israeli concessions and risks will reverse delegitimization. Experience has shown the opposite.

Obama's second argument is that the strategic situation will get worse if Israel doesn't make concessions, etc. In fact, precisely because the situation is getting worse means Israel doesn't want to face a hostile Egyptian and Lebanese government, a stronger Iran, a less reliable America, etc., from a worse strategic situation. And that's what will happen if Israel does what Obama wants.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why The Palestinian Authority-Hamas Deal Is So Dangerous

This is published in Bitter Lemons. Their title: "Hamas has real sponsors." I have made some changes reflecting my preferences for transliteration and nomenclature.

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By Barry Rubin

The Fatah-Hamas decision to reconcile, form a joint Palestinian Authority (PA) government and hold elections seems to be a short-run maneuver that might have some very long-range consequences.

Fatah's motive seems to be to have a united front when it goes to the UN in September to seek recognition of a unilateral declaration of independence. One of the arguments used to criticize its standing to make such a move has been the fact that the PA does not rule almost half the territory it is claiming.

For Fatah, it is also a popular move. A recent poll by Near East Consulting says that 89 percent of Palestinians want the dispute settled and believe it will help the Palestinian case at the UN.

But while September is the minimum time for this agreement to last, May 2012 is the maximum timeline. That is the approximate date set for new elections and the side that expects to lose would probably pull out of the pact. Hamas has no intention of yielding control over the Gaza Strip to a Fatah-dominated PA, while Fatah feels the same way about letting Hamas extend its control over the West Bank.

Which of the two groups is more popular? Ironically, it may be true that more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, fed up with Hamas’ repressive rule and destructive policies, would vote for Fatah candidates than last time; while West Bank Palestinians, fed up with Fatah's continuing corruption, might give more votes to Hamas.

On its side, Fatah's election slogan could be that the PA has delivered relative prosperity; Hamas offers ideological and religious fervor.

There are, however, three big problems that the merger--if it is at all applied in practice--creates for Palestinian politics and for the peace process.

First, radicalization. Hamas has more advantages for radicalizing Palestinian public opinion, the PA, and Fatah than Fatah has for moderating Hamas. Hamas is a disciplined organization with a clear ideology. It has a strong social welfare component--albeit only to build its political base--and has not been caught in high-level corruption. Moreover, it can play the card of Islam and of militancy against Israel and the West.

There is also the question of whose cadre is better. Fatah might always be linked to the word "moderate" nowadays, conjuring up the image of responsible middle class gentry, while Hamas people seem like wild-eyed fanatics. Yet in practice, the average Fatah cadre often have a thuggish, opportunistic character while Hamas' men are austerely puritanical. At least when they aren't in power--as on the West Bank--they might seem more attractive on the street level.

True, Fatah has on its side West Bank prosperity and providing the people with greater stability. But it has not delivered a state. In the past, Hamas’ talking points have done better than those of Fatah.

Yet the issue is not mainly what the people think but what the activists think. Fatah people have defected to Hamas and Islamist ideas have developed within the Fatah militias. Groups that exist to fight admire the most energetic, effective fighters. The younger generation of Fatah people has worked alongside Hamas and doesn’t bear the hatred of its elders toward a rival group.

In addition, Hamas people can now demonstrate openly in the Fatah-ruled West Bank while Fatah rallies are banned in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip

Hamas’ sponsors have done better than Fatah’s sponsors. In fact, Fatah has no real sponsors in the Middle East. In contrast, Hamas is backed by Iran, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, and now the Egyptian government. These forces seem to Middle Easterners on both sides to be getting stronger at the expense of the United States and the West.

The second factor is the Western perception of the PA. The PA’s image is not enhanced by bringing into the government as an equal partner an organization rejecting peace with Israel and advocating genocide while extolling and committing terrorism. On top of this, Hamas is a client of Iran, Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood--not great strategic friends of the West. Both Hamas and Fatah representatives met with the Muslim Brotherhood's leader who told them that the winds of change blowing in Egypt placed the goal of liberating Palestine within reach.

Will Western governments be willing to give money to a regime that includes Hamas? One whose classrooms will teach that Israel should be destroyed and the Jews are subhuman? One very possibly containing a movement that continues to fire rockets and mortar shells into Israel?  Already many congressional Democrats are calling for an aid cut-off.

The Obama Administration will ignore them but might there come a point when it can no longer do so?

Finally, there is a factor that exacerbates the first two points: How will this alliance affect PA policies?

A PA that has absorbed Hamas as part of the government will not be able to negotiate seriously with Israel. Indeed, set on the unilateral independence strategy, it will not want to talk seriously with Israel. On no issues--borders, security guarantees, Jerusalem, refugees--will it be able to make the tiniest compromise. It will certainly not reduce incitement to violence or terrorist attacks.

There is also the question of structural changes within the PA. Many within Fatah already want to get rid of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man mainly responsible for the West Bank’s economic progress. Joined by Hamas partners, they would almost certainly succeed in forcing Fayyad out. If there are Hamas ministers, they will use their positions to bring their cadres into the government and turn the PA in a more radical and Islamist direction.

It should be stressed that for the PA to be a real partner for peace, one of the most important tasks would be to reinstall its (or, perhaps one might better say, Fatah’s) hegemony over Hamas. This is not at all what is happening now. Either the partnership will break down or it will make Hamas stronger, the PA more radical and, hence, unsuccessful in producing peace, prosperity, or progress toward an actual Palestinian state.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Palestinians: Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Islamism

This article is http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/2011/05/08/342/ in PajamasMedia. The full text is published here for your convenience.

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By Barry Rubin

I’m always a bit wary of using public opinion polls in the Middle East because much depends on the day the poll is done; the way questions are worded; and the fact that in authoritarian societies ruled by dictatorial regimes people don't necessarily speak their mind.

In this poll, by Near East Consulting, there are some peculiar results that make it appear skewed toward Fatah and against Hamas. This may have to do with the fears of those polled. It is revealing that—I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before—the official Fatah-controlled Palestinian press agency, Wafa, distributed a story on the poll because it fits with their political line.

But that fact makes the following two points all the more remarkable, even shocking compared to past, comparable polls:

--Asked to give their primary personal identity, 57 percent said Muslim; 21 percent, Palestinian; 19 percent, human beings; and only 5 percent said Arab.

This says something important about the steep decline in Arab nationalism but brings into question Fatah-style Palestinian nationalism, too. One can see oneself primarily as a Muslim and still support Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, but this upward trend also indicates of the growth of thinking likely to lead people toward backing Hamas in future.

--Asked what government system they preferred in future, about 40 percent said they want an Islamic caliphate. In addition, 24 percent seek a system like those in Arab countries, and only 12 percent prefer one like that in European countries.

While defining what an “Arab system” means is ambiguous, it is reasonable to presume that means an Arab nationalist dictatorship since at this moment virtually no Arab country is a democracy.

When asked whether they support Fatah or Hamas the results are so overwhelmingly pro-Fatah as to make one suspicious. It is safer for someone living in a dictatorship to discuss general principles rather than oppose that government in conversation with outsiders. Yet, again, one would expect a Fatah supporter to highlight a Palestinian or Arab identity rather than a Muslim one.
What this poll, and other indications, suggests to me is that the potential constituency for Islamism (Hamas) is at least 40 percent, for Palestinian nationalism (Fatah, Palestinian Authority) just over 20 percent, and for democracy about 12 percent. Most of those who expressed no opinion would probably support the PA to give it an election victory but that cannot be assumed.

Note that there is no real organized moderate democratic party in the entire Palestinian political spectrum. The findings remind us of just how small the base is for any modern democratic state in the sense that is understand not only in the West but also in much of Asia, Africa, and the Latin America.

Remember that in most of the rest of the Third World, even where dictatorship exists, a moderate democratic state is a popular aspiration.  It may not be what people have but it is what the majority wants. This really doesn't seem to be true in the Middle East.

These figures also imply that Hamas is more likely to recruit current Fatah supporters than vice-versa.

There are hints here of what would happen in completely free elections in a future Palestinian state. They do not incline Israel—or anyone with good sense—to rush to support the creation of such a state, especially now that Fatah and Hamas are once again united.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.







Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fatah-Hamas Agreement: Another Nail in the “Peace Process’s” Coffin

This article is published on PajamasMedia. The full text is presented here for your convenience.

By Barry Rubin

Suddenly, after years of persistent failure, Fatah and Hamas--which means the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas--have signed a detailed reconciliation agreement.

Why now? It's preparation for the UN and the claim that the PA is sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians. In exchange for being able to claim it now rules both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Fatah (PA) made huge concessions that it has always refused to give before.

Naturally, the accord will break down. Presumably after the PA gets a lot of support for being an independent country later this year and before projected Palestinian elections in 2012.

Why is Hamas going along with this? Because the deal gives it a lot, including a promise of elections in a year. Hamas won the last elections and presumably is confident--especially as it looks at electoral successes for Hizballah in Lebanon and probably soon for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt--that it will win again.

But there's also another reason. Hamas is probably quite happy with the idea that many countries--and perhaps the UN--will recognize an independent Palestinian state unconditionally. In other words, there will be a widely, or internationally, accepted Palestine without the need to make peace with Israel. No concessions need be made. The Palestinians will get everything and give up nothing. They will not be bound in any way by border changes or security guarantees. The struggle to wipe Israel off the map can continue.

It's Hamas's dream come true.

Anyone who thinks this helps the peace process is deluded. Hamas will never accept any peace agreement with Israel and will radicalize Fatah's negotiating position out of competition between the two rivals to prove their militancy. The race to commit the most bloody terrorist acts would also intensify.

Make no mistake. Whether or not this development has any direct effect on the ground, it's another step toward the death of any real Israel-Palestinian peace process.

For a detailed account of the deal: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=218098

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.





Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Thousands of Palestinians rally for reconciliation." But reconciliation with whom?

By Barry Rubin


The headline on the Associated Press story caught my eye immediately:

Thousands of Palestinians rally for reconciliation

I always look for stories that contradict my assumptions so that I can examine or change them if necessary. According to the headline, this might be an important new--and positive--development.

So, did thousands of Palestinians come together to rally for reconciliation with Israel following the horrendous murder of an entire family? Is there really the hope for Israel-Palestinian peace that the Western governments and media keep telling us about?

Of course not! (Sadly.). These Palestinians--about 25,000 of them--were rallying for reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas so that they could go to war against Israel together!

You know, Hamas, the organization that calls for the killing of all Jews and wiping Israel off the map. Reconciliation also includes, of course, the murderers of the Fogel children in Itamar and all the other suicide bombers and terrorists who killed Israeli civilians.

Moreover, Hamas, even though the demonstration served its purpose generally, is so dictatorial that it attacked some of the participants because they were Fatah supporters, thus showing why there isn't unity.

Of course, the headline should have tipped me off: You can't have "reconciliation" with someone when you've never been willing to have "conciliation" with them in the first place.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Palestinian Leaders' Response to Democratic Upheaval: Fire the Honest Guy

By Barry Rubin

The Palestinian Authority doesn't have to worry about democratic upheavals since it has the nationalist and anti-Israel cards to play. Besides, it will never face real Western criticism or pressure. All it has to worry about is Hamas taking over, and that's avoided by sticking to a hard line and not making any compromises with Israel.


Palestinian politics are what, in the end, determine that there will be no comprehensive Israel-Palestinian peace. Here's the latest installment in that story. As the Arabic-speaking world sees unprecedented upheavals against autocratic regimes, Fatah wants to get rid of Salam Fayyad, the honest technocrat who serves as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

On one level, they do have a point. Fayyad is not there because of democratic processes. True, he was appointed by "President" Mahmoud Abbas but he is now beyond his term of office which ended in January. But the real reason that Fayyad, and Abbas also, is still in power is because the Western donors insist on it, threatening to cut off all the aid money (read: fuel for corruption) if they are fired.

But, of course, the relative moderation of Fayyad and to a lesser extent Abbas doesn't suit the Fatah leadership. The duo is in fact quite weak, serving as front men to keep up the image of a regime that is a coalition of corrupt hardliners (Arafat's men) and somewhat corrupt extremists. Meanwhile, Palestinian public opinion is fed on a steady diet of  hatred for Israel and the West as well as opposition for any compromise peace.

And the alternative is Hamas, which keeps Fatah "honest" in terms of refusing to make a deal with Israel and seeking total victory no matter how long it takes.

That's why--and not due to Israeli policy--there's no peace and won't be any for many years.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

East Jerusalem Arabs Prefer Israel to Palestine

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By Barry Rubin

A survey in which respondents are anonymous gave a better sense of how east Jerusalem Arabs wish their future to be. They preferred Israeli citizenship over that of Palestine by 35 to 30 percent. Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood to become citizens of Israel, while 54 percent said that if their neighborhood would be in Israel they would not move to Palestine.

This poll's main usefulness  is not to set the fate of east Jerusalem in any peace settlement. Rather, it is an educational tool for how the Middle East works. Asked publicly what they thought, there's no doubt that 100 percent of east Jerusalem Arab residents would say that living in Israel was a nightmare of oppression, that Israel oppressed them daily and Israelis were evil, that they demanded east Jerusalem's turnover to a future Palestinian state, couldn't wait until it happened, and in fact insisted that it take place right now or else.

Keep this kind of thing in mind when hearing what people in the Middle East say publicly on these and other issues.





 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things You Need To Know About the Middle East, December 2010

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By Barry Rubin

The Egyptian government so arranged the parliamentary elections that the share of seats held by the opposition declined from 20 percent for Muslim Brotherhood supporters alone to only 3 percent for all of the half-dozen opposition parties put together. In other words, the regime didn't just steal the election--which it does regularly--it over-stole the balloting. One can sympathize with the idea of the current government of President Husni Mubarak not wanting to let the revolutionary Islamists take power, and one can understand how the regime wants a nice stable situation for the succession next year presumably to Husni's son Gamal.

But they overdid it.

What is worrisome here is that by showing the Muslim Brotherhood that even if it bows its head to repression (with 1,000 members arrested in the days leading up to the election) it won't even get the tiniest crumbs from the government. And that seems to mean--judging from Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi's hardline statements even earlier (see here and here)--that the group may step up efforts to overthrow the regime. There's no question of violence in the near-term, but what about four or six or eight years down the road, especially if Gamal falters as president or the ruling elite splits in factional disputes.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that we've been told by some that the Brotherhoods are really moderate and deserve to be engaged in dialogue, the Jordanian branch has now called on Arab governments to send their armies to Afghanistan in a Jihad to kill Americans and other NATO forces there . When one actually looks at the materials in Arabic of the Egyptian or Jordanian Brotherhoods or their sister organization Hamas, one finds an extremist rhetoric not that much different from al-Qaida's ideology, though not that group's tactics...yet.

And speaking of false moderates, check out the latest issue of the Palestinian Authority's newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, which tells readers that Israel is "a country whose aim is destruction and ruin of humanity...which disseminates destruction, ruin and weapons in the world...which acts to kill nations, to threaten them and to occupy their land...[and] which acts to disseminate the culture of hatred and racism among human beings."

The fact that this is in an article about sports symbolizes the unending and comprehensive "culture of hatred" disseminated by the PA among its own people, thus making real peace somewhere between incredibly unlikely and impossible.

Here's something worth checking out if you have any interest in Muslim communities in Europe, a serious effort to provide figures for the size of the population in different countries done by Pew.

To use the example of the UK, the Pew study estimates Muslims there at 2.9 million (4.6 percent of the population) while the previous British government estimate was 1.6 million in the 2001 census. This constitutes a 74 percent increase in nine years. The largest communities are in Germany (4.1 million) and France (almost 3.6 million). By percentages, the largest proportion of Muslims are in Belgium, France, Austria and Switzerland (almost 6 percent). The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany are about 5 percent. And of course these numbers are rising rapidly.

Meanwhile, 200 Jewish families have left Belgium, with increasing emigration also from Holland, and presumably other countries. The situation is also deteriorating in the Netherlands where a sympathetic leading politician has said that recognizable Jews will probably not be able to remain in the country. One factor there is very hostile media coverage of Israel, including the echoing of demonizing stories and Hamas' propaganda. Here's Melanie Phillips on the situation in the UK regarding Islamism and these issues.

Finally, few have noticed that in September 2008 the Iranian parliament passed a law making conversion away from Islam punishable by death for men and life imprisonment for women. For information on repression of Christians in Iran, see the following sites:

http://payvand.com/blog/blog/2010/05/29/amnesty-international-report-2010-on-iran
http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-29426
http://www.rferl.org/content/Two_Iranian_Christians_May_Face_Execution_For_Apostasy/1779217.htML
http://www.worthynews.com/9337-iranian-christians-threatened-by-death-penalty
http://www.persecution.net/ir-2010-12-09.htm
http://www.iranpresswatch.org/post/2074
http://www.opendoorsuk.org/resources/iran/background.php

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Palestinian Cartoon Shows Why There Isn't (And Won't Soon Be) Peace




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By Barry Rubin

After fifteen years of following the Palestinian Authority (PA) media on a daily basis, I've never seen anything that sums up the problem of why there's no peace better than this cartoon in al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official PA newspaper. If only the Western mass media ran this cartoon the situation would be crystal-clear and nobody would have any doubt who is blocking a peaceful, two-state resolution of the conflict.

In the cartoon, a young boy is being instructed in the Arabic alphabet by the teacher. But even before he starts with the letters, the very basis of his world view and knowledge is presented (in his thought balloon) as this: All of Israel must be replaced by Palestine. See the map on the right side of the balloon, remembering Arabic is read from right to left. This goal is presented as the foundation stone, the guiding light, the very basis of Palestinian thought and identity.

Nor is that all. On the desk, his pen has become a slingshot (symbolizing that violent struggle trumps education) with stones.

Not exactly: Hey kids! Stay in school, get a good education, help build a peaceful, prosperous Palestine living as a neighbor to Israel!

Remember, too, this is a PA newspaper. If "President" Mahmoud Abbas wanted to do so, which he doesn't, he could pick up the phone and tell the editor to stop it. We aren't talking about a broad spectrum of permissible belief or free competition of ideas here. Everything in the newspaper is what the PA wants to convey, indeed indoctrinate, its subjects and supporters to believe.

This context also explains why unilaterally declaring a state, rather than getting one through a negotiated agreement, is so attractive for the PA, allowing it to have its state and eat Israel, too. No negotiations, concessions, obligations, commitment to end the conflict, or to accept Israel's existence would be needed. Meanwhile, the next generation is being prepared what might be called--to borrow a Star Wars title--Episode 2: Return of the Jihadi.

How can a Palestinian government, media, and educational system that presents the struggle to wipe Israel off the map as the most fundamental principle of existence, the touchstone of national identity, possibly make peace with Israel? How could leaders, even if they wanted to do so, persuade their people to compromise when they have been brought up on ideas like this?

The situation is not one of Palestinians--at least in terms of public life, politics, and society--desperately yearning for a state of their own, a higher standard of living, the end of "occupation," a better life for their children, and the dismantlement of Jewish settlements. In reality, the situation is of Palestinians being taught, told, and led to believe that the only worth goal is one of total victory.

In this context, peace is betrayal, compromise is cowardice, a treason to be punished by dishonor or death. Turning kids into cannon fodder is the top priority, not only for Hamas but even for the PA.

One picture is worth a thousand martyrs.

PS:

Here's another example of the kind of people the PA admires as heroes--terrorists who attacked Israeli civilians. And here are more examples of claiming all of Israel as official policy. And PA television programming presenting Tel Aviv as a settlement.

And this is what happens when a woman in Ramallah writes questioning whether violence helps the Palestinians and opposing Islamization. The Palestinian reporter asks her: "You declared yourself a Palestinian. Many, however, view the things you write as offensive and hostile to Islam. What makes people question your Palestinian identity and accuse you of being hostile to Islam?"

In other words, if you don't want Hamas, prefer a more secular society, and want a two-state solution, how can you call yourself a Palestinian or Muslim at all?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Terrorist Whose Daughter Was Cured

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By Barry Rubin

This is a remarkable story in human terms but there is an extremely important point for understanding the Middle East embedded in it as well.

On June 14, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on a police car travelling on a road, en route from Beersheba to Jerusalem. One policeman, Yeheshua Sofer was killed. Two others were wounded. Sofer was due to be married in three months. It took a month but members of the cell were finally captured. They spoke quite freely about this attack and others they had planned for killing Israelis.

During the interrogation, one of the leaders remarked that only two weeks earlier his six-year-old daughter had been given a free operation in Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to remove a tumor from her eye. The operation had been paid for by an Israeli organization.

Reading this, I recall a number of similar past instances. In one famous case, the Palestinian who later attacked Israel had been saved from injuries inflicted by another Palestinian in a quarrel. There have also been examples of terrorists playing on the sympathy of Israelis claiming they needed medical attention--especially in one bloody attack on the Gaza-Israel border--not to mention the use of women and children to smuggle weapons or even to carry out suicide attacks.

The Western reader--if he doesn't go in for some elaborate theory in which somehow Israel is still to blame--might see this and other such cases as examples of human ingratitude, the kind of thing often found in private life. There is also a psychiatric explanation: the person involved is in some way deranged, causing him to behave in an "illogical" manner.

Yet beyond irony and insanity, both falling short of the needed explanation, this kind of situation is important because it challenges the common Western theme of kindness and concession as inevitably leading to moderation and peace. There is another misleading flip side of this view, too: the concept that what seems like inexplicable violence or "fanaticism" is a direct response to ill treatment.

Thus, for those locked into the kindness breeds kindness model (which often does work in personal life), terrorists must be shown to be suffering from poverty or personal suffering (even though statistics show this to be untrue) or understandable outrage at bad treatment (ignoring the possibility of their engaging in alternative behavior, like making a compromise peace or building a democratic society).

Yet the main missing explanation explaining such behavior is ideology and world view. If you think that the divine being has ordered you to wipe out Israel and the Jews (or Christians and the West also), if you have no self-critical facility whatsoever, if you believe (and are told by the West) that you are always a victim, if you put a priority on revenge rather than improving your situation, and if you view your opponent as sub-human (racism is more frequently deployed by elements in some parts of the "Third World" against the West than vice-versa nowadays, whatever was true in the past), then your conscience will be untroubled by having your daughter healed as a gift and trying to kill the maximum number of Israelis thereafter.

Where have things been different? Obviously, one can insist on one's dignity and right to have a country of one's own without developing such behavior. We have seen this in dozens of cases over previous decades. You don't have to invoke such names s Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Gandhi in this case. Quite average nationalist leaders far from sainthood have pulled it off repeatedly.

Indeed, such an approach is not only more moral but more effective. After all, if you are willing to compromise with your opponent, the latter might be more willing and able to give you more of what you want. If the Palestinian movement had adopted such an approach--which is still lacking to this day--there would have been a Palestinian Arab state in 1948 (UN partition), or in 1979 (Anwar al-Sadat peace initiative) or in 2000 (Camp David/Clinton plan), or at many other times in history.

Of course, there are cases--fewer but genuine--of individual Palestinians saving the lives of Israelis who would otherwise have been murdered. But here's the catch: those people have to hide their identities from other Palestinians while to kill Israeli children deliberately, even in 2010, makes one a hero.

Moreover, it is also misleading to conclude that people want to wipe out Israel because it is doing something so horrible--that there is a proportionality at work here--as to justify such treatment. Again, the problem lies in the ideology and worldview of the radicals, as well as their expectation of total victory, that drives the process. Israelis as a whole discovered this between 1992 and 2000. Sympathy, an attempt to provide a balanced narrative, aid, payments, concessions, compromises, offers all failed. Indeed, not only did they fail but in many respects these actions made things worse--at least more dangerous--for those who tried that method.

One of the times I came closer to being killed so far was when an Arab driver returning from taking supplies to the Gaza Strip or bringing workers into Israel so they could make living smuggled in a suicide terrorist. Six months after the day I saw the dead killed by that attack in the street around the corner from my home, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat told me--with pomposity and a slur on Israel that would have marked him as a vicious antisemite if he weren't a Jewish careerist--that no terrorist had ever come into Israel that way.

Incidentally, and this is an absolutely true story, the day before the March 1996 bombing, I had passed by a woman in full Islamist dress (by no means normally dressed for an Israeli Arab Muslim woman who might merely wear modest clothing and a hijab) outside the Dizengoff Center mall looking at the door (and possibly checking out the security) about 20 yards from where the suicide bomber blew himself up some hours later. I thought to myself: what a great democratic and open country this is that in the midst of a terrorist bombing campaign she could walk through Tel Aviv without anyone bothering her in the least. I wondered later if this was coincidental or part of the terrorist operation. If you want to compare the reality of Israel from the way it is portrayed in biased media and academic writings, ponder that story.

These stories are in no way to say that you don't treat children with eye tumors, or not let people make a living or send in supplies, or look askance at people merely because they belong to a specific national or religious group.

But you also don't let wishful thinking take over your mind and don't let hopes of gratitude bolster your expectations in an irrational manner.

And you never ever strengthen individuals or organizations who want to kill you and wipe you out on the basis of believing that generosity will make them moderate.

This basic calculus, of course, does not apply just to Israel's situation but to a West facing attacks by revolutionary Islamists--including the September 11 terrorists and those in Britain's tube or Spain's railroad attacks--as well. The idea that compromises, concessions, flattery, and gifts are going to buy popularity or immunity will simply not work.

Note to Western leaders, academics, and journalists reading this: Remember to condemn the people who commit deliberate terrorist murders and refuse to make real peace, not the ones who operate for free on the "enemy" side's children and take risky concessions to try to achieve peace.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does the Palestinian leadership still desire to eliminate Israel?

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By Barry Rubin

An Arab reader asks: Does the Palestinian leadership still desire to eliminate Israel?

Answer: If we are talking about Hamas, of course yes, there is no doubt about that and shouldn't be. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is a more complex case. Many PA leaders know that they cannot destroy Israel and that the cost of trying would be very high for them. A number of them, in their private thoughts or personal preferences, would like a lasting two-state solution. Prime Minister Fayyad is one of the few who has apparently abandoned this idea in his behavior as well.

But in another part of their minds many PA leaders think that destroying Israel is the right goal and can be done in the long term. What is especially important is that they still teach their people this idea and do not break publicly with it. How much effort has been done in Arabic by the PA to promote the idea of a permanent solution in which two states live side by side in peace since the 1993 Oslo agreement?

Remarkably little. Media, textbooks, mosque sermons, leaders' speeches rarely speak in these terms when made in Arabic. Thus, the continued domination by this doctrine provokes violence, conflict, radicalism, and legitimacy for Hamas.

Why do they behave this way? Some hold radical ideological views and see themselves and Fatah as a revolutionary organization. This is a doctrine that all of its internal documents confirm. Others simply understand that if they were to become genuinely and explicitly moderate in their long-term goals, their enemies and rivals would use this against them. They would be seen, or treated, as traitors. Their careers would be over, and there would be some danger to their personal survival as well, though this last point shouldn't be overstated.

In this regard, several clear categories can be seen among Fatah leaders. The largest single group is former Arafat loyalists who very much believe that they can have the fruits of moderation and of radicalism simultaneously, they can maintain the PA and even cooperate a bit with Israel at present while retaining the option of violence and not giving up their hope of future total victory. That is why the PA is a partner at present for maintaining the status quo but not for making a comprehensive peace

Another grouping is led by PLO radicals who also speak of wanting to wipe Israel off the map but are patient about doing so. To make a generalization, the older generation among them hate Hamas; the younger are willing to cooperate with it in a third intifadah.

The number of real moderates genuinely ready for a permanent two-state solution that would be peaceful and stable is very small.

What is especially pernicious is the doctrine that even if the PA leaders themselves don't struggle to destroy Israel, they will make no concession that will close the door to a future total victory by another generation. This makes it impossible to have a peace agreement.

A critical element here is the demand for a "right of return" in which all refugees and their descendants who wish to do so must be allowed to live in Israel as part of any peace agreement. This doctrine, accepted by 82 percent of Palestinians according to a recent poll, serves as a bridge between a two-state solution and a future total victory. It is a lie to argue that Palestinians only advocate a one-state solution because the two-state solution is blocked by Israel. On the contrary, the one-state (Arab, Muslim) solution is a critical element in Palestinian ideology that blocks any two-state solution.



Again, this is not to claim that all PA leaders are hardliners who want violent conflict. Many do enjoy economic wealth and power in the PA that they don't want to risk by returning to all-out conflict. But this analysis shows why the status quo is easier to maintain and a peace agreement is harder to reach than many Western observers think.

One of the worst of many bad ideas promoted in the West is a merger between the PA and Hamas. This would guarantee a majority of leaders who wanted a violent confrontation and a struggle until final victory no matter what the cost.


It is argued that the creation of an independent Palestinian state would automatically make the PA moderate. Eager to keep their own state they would not risk it through continuing the conflict with Israel. They would become preoccupied by accumulating wealth.

This might be true--well, no, not really, I'm just being polite--yet there is ample reason to doubt it. After all, this was the argument made in the 1990s for the PA under Arafat and it clearly didn't work. Having a state might in fact further inflame the determination to gain total victory. Hamas would be a factor as would Syrian and Iranian subversion. Competing factions would probably strive against each other by outbidding each other in militancy, a common feature in Arab states.

Again, while one could argue these points it is a very high-level risk not only for Israel but for Western interests. A two-state solution could work under proper conditions but these should be proven, not assumed.

We will truly know that a two-state solution is possible, desirable, and workable when there is a clear change in the stance of the PA leaders.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two Articles--Turkey and Palestinian State-Building That Didn't Get into Daily Mailing

Note to subscribers. For some reason the following two articles did not go out to subscribers, so please feel free to read them directly through these links.

"I'm Looking and I Don't See Any Palestinian State-Building Going On"
http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2010/06/im-looking-and-i-dont-see-any.html

"Who in Turkey Knows the Value of the Now-Dead Alliance with Israel? The Foreign and Defense Ministries"
http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2010/06/who-in-turkey-knows-value-of-now-dead.html

Monday, May 3, 2010

In Trouble: No Iran Sanctions This Summer? Unstable Palestinian Leadership

By Barry Rubin

Vice-President Joe Biden has said that there will be a sanctions' resolution on Iran ready by next week which is now this week. Really?

In trying to sound, as usual, tough toward Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drops in the idea that the United States and other countries are working to complete an agreement on sanctions against Iran by mid-June. In other words, they hope to have a plan—not sanctions--by then. So that means no sanctions before July or so. But even this deadline can slip again. And how minimal will the sanctions have to be to get them by the UN Security Council?

The whole sanctions’ effort is turning into a demonstration of Obama Administration incompetence.



Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Foreign Subsidies are all that's Keeping Two Palestinian Governments from Collapse

In a new article, "A Tale of Two Palestinian Authorities," my colleague, Jonathan Spyer, points out--in an article well worth reading--the fragility of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an entity that is hardly able, if it were willing which is also a problem, to make a comprehensive peace with Israel.

But here's the most stunning point:

"Veteran Palestinian political analyst Yezid Sayigh recently noted that both the Gaza and Ramallah governments are dependent for their economic survival on foreign assistance. The Fayyad government has an annual $2.8 billion budget, of which one half consists of direct foreign aid. The Hamas authorities, meanwhile, announced a budget of $540 million, of which $480 million is to come from outside (Iran)."

In addition, remember that, as I have noted, the Hamas regime also depends on Western aid provided through the Palestinian Authority.  



Tale of Two Palestinian Authorities


By Jonathan Spyer*

April 27, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Answering Readers' Questions and Updates: Fatah and Turkey

Please subscribe to the blog that raises the questions--and answers them--that the media misses or mistakes

1. Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan

Question: You describe Fatah hardliners as seeking a Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Why don't they want to take over Jordan also? And why is a similar change of mind impossible about a permanent peace with Israel?

Answer: Historically, the PLO and Fatah have not sought to overthrow Jordan and take it over. The exception is when they were overconfident during the 1968-1970 period and even then that was more a PFLP and DFLP idea than a Fatah one. While seeking revenge through the Black September terrorist group from 1970 to 1972, Fatah and the PLO have not worked actively to subvert Jordan, in part remembering the total defeat Jordan gave them in September 1970. Actually, the fact is that Hamas has largely displaced the PLO and many Palestinian Jordanians support the Muslim Brotherhood-related Islamic Action Front today. Jordan does worry about an independent Palestinian state but doesn't see Fatah as a direct threat today.

2. Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Brigade

Question The new Fatah charter refers to Al Asifa as its military wing. Is there a reason that Fatah seems to be abandoning Al Aqsa martyrs brigade? Or did Fatah itself use both names?

Answer: Al-Asifa has been the name of the PLO irregularforces (guerrilla/terrorist) since the 1960s. Al-Aqsa is not controlled by the Fatah Central Committee. One might call it a deniable terrorist force which is under the control of the West Bank local Fatah organization. Although the Western news media often falls for the trick, since Fatah has never tried to stop the group or disciplined any member for participating in it, al-Aqsa is clearly a Fatah group but, again, not necessarily one controlled from the top Fatah bureaucracy. Al-Aqsa was created by Marwan Barghouti, who is now a member of the Fatah Central Committee though in an Israeli prison for organizing the bloody second intifada--by his own admission--in 2000.

3. Turkish Regime's Plans to Take Over Army

Following the Turkish regime's attempt to intimidate me and my article about how that Islamist government is slandering the army and intimidating or throwing into jail peaceful critics, the next step in the campaign has been taken. Today's Zaman, the leading organ of the regime, now says the solution is that the armed forces reflect Turkey's diversity by admitting Islamist officers. Eventually, of course, the regime would ensure that the army is ideologically loyal to itself. So this is the plan: keep accusing the army of planning coups and terrorism (including schemes to put bombs in mosques), discredit it with the public, and blackmail it into becoming Islamist-oriented, thus completing the AKP regime's control over all Turkish institutions.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.