The movement has been paralyzed by competing personal alliances and a continuing identity crisis, and has not held a congress in 20 years. While the gap between the Fatah-led West Bank and the Hamas-led Gaza is widely recognized, less appreciated is that Fatah itself, which the West trains and helps, is so internally torn that it is scarcely able to negotiate or govern.And this the party with which Israel is supposed to negotiate the creation of a second Palestinian state?
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a new government with greater Fatah representation among the ministers but little change in policy.
“We are on a sinking ship, and the leadership thinks it can save us by plugging a hole,” lamented Qaddoura Fares, a leading Fatah advocate of change and peace with Israel. “We have to wake up and stop lying to ourselves. We call ourselves a democratic movement, but what democratic movement hasn’t met in 20 years?”
If he and others succeed and Fatah reorganizes itself and successfully takes on Hamas in elections planned for 2010 in the West Bank and Gaza, prospects for a deal between Israel and a future state of Palestine could brighten considerably. But polls show that if elections were held now, Hamas would give Fatah a very close race.
Hazony points out that there can be no Palestinian side as long as the irreconcilable split between Fatah and Hamas remains.
As the political dust settles in the wake of the Obama-Netanayahu meeting, the two governments’ positions are starting to come into focus. Netanyahu rejects the two-state solution; Obama affirms it. Netanyahu insists on continuing the “natural growth” of existing settlements; Obama rejects it. Netanhyahu insists that Jerusalem will remain the “eternal, undivided” capital of Israel; Obama sees Jerusalem as up for negotiations.
One would almost think from this that Israel and the United States are negotiating with one another. But they’re not. Israel’s supposed to be negotiating with the Palestinians. And there are all sorts of questions that have to do with what the Palestinians are willing to give up: the “right of return,” contiguity, Jerusalem, education, a permanent end to hostility, etc. What happened to all of these? As long as there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, the respective positions of both Netanyahu and Obama are meaningless.