Palestinian President Abbas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority face regular criticism that they are being “more Israeli than the Israelis” in their efforts to control Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank. While leading Israelis and Americans are impressed by the PA’s efforts to oust terrorist cells and arrest suspects in Jenin, Nablus and other West Bank towns, sceptical Palestinians are beginning mockingly to refer to General Dayton, the US military adviser, as the “Palestinian minister of defence”. Members of Abbas’s Fatah party are also reportedly concerned that its leaders’ efforts to quell “resistance” against the Israeli occupation will limit its popularity among ordinary Palestinians.
Now Hamas, Fatah’s main rival, has begun to adopt an Israeli tactic too: closure. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, denied Fatah members permission to travel to the West Bank to take part in an internal Fatah election. The 400-odd Gazans want to to to Bethlehem, where they would be among 1,550 Fatah officials voting to elect the organisation’s leadership. But Hamas has announced that it will not allow them to attend until “the issue of political arrests in the West Bank is resolved” – meaning, until Hamas men are released from Palestinian Authority prisons.
Israel has long used its capacity to deny movement between the West Bank and Gaza as a way to control Palestinian political developments. The fact that the occupied are beginning to adopt the tactics of the occupiers in their efforts to prevent progress by their domestic political rivals is a sad indication of the dire state of inter-Palestinian politics.