Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Balancing act: Fateh must stand up to Obama or fall

In pragmatic reality, Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders of Fateh/the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will tell you, political life has always been a delicate balance: Critical to their regime’s survival has been a duplicitous blend of acceding to the forcible demands of Israel as unconditionally backed by the United States, and speaking bravely before their constituents in order to retain their support. What they won’t tell you, of course, is that this is the price of corruption, collusion and cowardice: Only by the nimblest of political and rhetorical gymnastics have they so far escaped the fate of Hosni Mubarak, for by ignoring the fundamental interests of their people while enriching themselves and their cronies in the ruling elite, they have incurred the merited scorn of millions across the Middle East.

An Israeli construction worker balances as he builds settlements

An Israeli construction worker balances as he builds housing in one of many illegal settlements in Palestinian territory.
[ Image Source ]

Now, as illegal construction of Israeli settlements around the West Bank (as pictured above) races ahead, Abbas and crew have found themselves under pressure as never before. Having introduced a resolution before the UN Security Council to condemn such construction, they have first been pushed by Obama administration officials to withdraw the resolution; then, having refused to do so thanks to their perilous instability, which allows them no further room to make a separate peace, they have watched the US veto that resolution in defiance of the will of every other nation on the council.

Two choices therefore confront this regime: Either it must explicitly reject Washington’s dubious “help” in a misnamed peace process that has yielded much process and no peace, and seek other channels by which to circumvent US interference, or it must prepare to yield power.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, the Palestinian people are now painfully aware of Fateh’s weakness and complicity. Thanks to recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere around the Middle East — and particularly to the regional tsunami of revolution that has been recognized since it flooded the streets and squares of Cairo on khamis wa-3ashrun yanayir (25 January) — Fateh is painfully aware of the potential consequences of failing to fight for the rights of its people.

With the “days of rage,” as seen across the region since January, soon to become a feature of Palestinian life, Fateh’s fate balances on a fast-fraying tightrope strung across a bottomless abyss. Since the sole means of survival for the regime is to effect what amounts to a miracle, and since its weakness limits its continued usefulness to Israel and the U.S., I predict the worst for it.

But since a genuinely free election of a successor regime is likely to yield either reunification under Hamas or the installation of the leaders of a similar movement in the West Bank, peace may be hard to come by. Given observed precedent, we may confidently predict that Israel would severely punish the “wrong” choice of leaders, dealing with the West Bank much as it did with Gaza in 2008-9, and as in fact it continues to do by means of persistent economic strangulation coupled with intermittent air strikes.

It would appear, then, that Palestine may not be able to proceed alone. Too poor and militarily weak to fight Israeli power on any front, it likely must look to internal changes in Israel to bring succor. However, given the scale of Israel’s own economic gap between its ruling classes and its many impoverished, such changes are not inconceivable. “Days of rage,” ultimately, are not solely the prerogative of Arab-majority countries; they are the most promising remedy for people around the world, from Cairo to Madison, Wisconsin, to Athens to Tel Aviv, who can no longer live under mammonolatry. Daily wanes the power of propaganda to spellbind people into tolerating the rule of gangs of thieves despoiling their nations of their common patrimony. Daily, too, waxes the power of peaceful but resolute resistance; and Israel, too, may soon need to make significant concessions to its people’s demands or fall as others have fallen.

Originally published as a review of a 20 February 2011 Guardian article
on Fateh and its growing perils.

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