Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Between the Lines: Rival Palestinian Factions Clash

This Associated Press story appeared in my local newspaper this morning. Either it or a variation likely appeared in most newspapers.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Deadly clashes erupted Monday between rival factions in the Gaza Strip for the first time in more than a month, despite a conciliatory speech toward Hamas by Fatah's leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

At least four Palestinians were killed, and medics said at least 60 were injured.

The sudden spike in Palestinian tensions came just a week before a planned visit to the Mideast by President Bush, who will try to prod Israel and the Palestinians closer to peace. Internal Palestinian violence could make it difficult for Abbas to concentrate on talks with Israel.

This article illustrates a number of truths that should be obvious but apparently aren't obvious to some leaders, including our own Secretary of State.

Obviously, while Abbas might negotiate, he doesn't have the power to make the negotiations meaningful. This once again demonstrates he was booted out of Gaza. He barely controls the area around his "presidential" compound in Ramallah. His "moderate" terrorist group, Fatah, lost the last election to its rival terrorist group, Hamas, which doesn't even pretend to be interested in using the strategy of stages but insists on destroying Israel in one fell swoop.

Yet our American government pretends this is an auspicious opportunity to launch negotiations to bring about peace.

Most likely, this clash will be one more incident which, illogically and counter-productively, will lead our government to pressure Israel to make more concessions to strengthen Abbas. Those concessions, generally involving releasing terrorists and strangling construction of housing for Israelis, invariably lead to more fatal terror attacks and make the Arabs even more intransigent, increasing the already astronomically high probability that any negotiations will fail.

President Bush has occasionally made some intelligent statements about the need for the Palestinian Arabs to get their house in order before they can establish another real state (as opposed to the two de facto, rogue, terrorist states they've established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, along with the Arab state called Jordan on the East Bank).

Unfortunately, as his administration nears its final stages, he seems to be making the same kind of mistake so many of his predecessors have made and is now mucking up the works.

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would do well to read Saul Singer's column, "Interesting Times: How to pressure for peace," just published in The Jerusalem Post.

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