The always-astute Reuel Gerecht makes many important observations in his Wall Street Journal op-ed today. This point in particular is one that I don’t think enough people have grasped:
Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis’ killing much of Hamas’s brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d’être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It’s no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement’s aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran’s influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.
Fatah’s woes and lack of appeal are such that, in the near term, it’s hard to see any alternative government in Gaza other than Hamas. That doesn’t mean that the current military operations won’t deter Hamas from reining in its rockets; the odds are that Israel will buy itself some peace for the time being, which is why I think that what Israel is doing is a good idea. But it is hard to see how Israel can create a longterm alternative in Gaza. Attempts to bring in outside peacekeepers or monitors aren’t likely to do much good, as witness the UN’s failure to stop Hezbollah’s rearmament. The bottom line is that there is only one state that is willing to commit its military resources to stop the terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank, and that is Israel. That, alas, is unlikely to change.