The fall of Gaza to Hamas should not have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the realities of Palestinian politics. As Khaled Abu Toemeh writes in the Jerusalem Post, “Fatah lost the battle for the Gaza Strip not because it had fewer soldiers and weapons, but because it lost the confidence and support of many Palestinians a long time ago.”
When will the U.S. and Israel learn that they cannot prop up their favorite Palestinian horse in the race regardless of how lame it is in the eyes of the Palestinian people? The West’s folly in betting on Fatah is yet another result of its acute, long-standing case of what I call “addressitis”: the belief that there must always be some Palestinian “address” to which Western negotiators can send their latest overtures.
Fatah and Hamas have long understood this syndrome. They built their political strategies on the knowledge that Western demands would always give way to the Western need to have a Palestinian “interlocutor.” Just as Yasser Arafat, by attacking Israel, avoided any real repercussions of his rejection of the Palestinian state offered to him in 2000, Hamas is now trying to escape its current financial and political isolation by attacking Fatah and Israel. The group’s leadership is clearly betting that the West, once more, will fail to resist accommodating a fait accompli—a Hamas-led government.
Once it finishes slaughtering Fatah in Gaza, Hamas will mostly likely approach Western leaders with a cease-fire-for-recognition deal, attempting an end run around the three conditions stipulated by the Quartet for aid to resume. The only way to avoid this is to cut back drastically on indirect aid to Gaza now and to restore it only when both the internal fighting and Kassam rocket attacks against Israel have ended.
Until the U.S. and Europe learn to cure themselves of “addressitis,” Hamas will continue escalating in an effort to escape compliance with the Quartet’s conditions. Teheran’s mullahs, who are themselves masters at this game, are doubtlessly taking note.