Palestinian Politics

Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh gave a talk to a group of journalists during the Gaza war. The entire transcription is available at the blog of Michael J. Totten. It is an absolutely fascinating description of Palestinian internal politics and how they affect Israeli-Arab relations.

A summary of the important points:

1. The international community made a big mistake giving money to the PLO in the hopes that it would set up a government which would live in peace with Israel. Instead, Yasser Arafat and his successors embezzled the money for their private use.

2. Arafat radicalized the Palestinian people by cracking down on any moderate leadership that tried to affect change. He used the weapons he received from Israel and the West against his own people and told them to hate the Jews.

3. Hamas won the elections in 2006 because many people voted for them as a protest against the PLO’s corruption. Since Hamas has never received funding from the West, they have not had the opportunity to use it in corrupt ways.

4. The Americans and Europeans, in response to Hamas’ election, tried to help the PLO rebel against the Hamas government. As a result, the PLO activists were thrown out of Gaza. There are now effectively two Arab governments in Israel: the PLO government in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza.

5. Right now, there is no one for Israel to make a deal with. The PLO doesn’t have sufficient support amongst the Palestinians due to its corruption and Hamas has no interest in making compromises.

6. The recent Gaza war has strengthened support of Hamas amongst Palestinians. The Arab media totally supported Hamas during the war and made it look as if the PLO leaders were on the side of Israel.

7. The feeling on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank is that the Israel has gone crazy and must be treated with care in the near future. Hamas was sure it could launch rockets at Israel with impunity. It now realizes that this is not possible.

8. The war was caused by the Egyptians continuing to close off the Rafah border crossing. The ceasefire arrangement Hamas had made with Israel was contingent on Egypt opening the border. Pressure from the Americans, the Israelis and the PLO’s leader Mahmoud Abbas caused Mubarak to refuse to open the crossing. When Hamas saw the border crossing would not be opened, it saw no reason to continue the ceasefire. Hamas’ main demand is still the opening of the Rafah crossing.

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