For public consumption, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Washington this week, had to share the world’s indignation about Israel’s naughty behavior on that ship in not letting a band of Turkish brigands throw its soldiers into the sea.
"Unlawful, unacceptable," is how he described the incident. "Our main demand is how to end the blockade on Gaza and I believe the entire world stands with us." Right.
Except that, when it comes to enforcing the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu would do well to take a page from the script of "A Few Good Men" and, in Jack Nicholson’s voice, tell Abbas "You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall."
In the dreams of both Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas, they will one day not have Israel to kick them around anymore. But that dream would soon turn to a nightmare if the two factions were left to duke it out in a civil war that would make the one in Lebanon look like Celebrity Apprentice.
The clash between Hamas and Fatah dwells under the carpet of the Middle East conflict. For perspective, read Jonathan Schanzer’s 2007 study, Hamas vs. Fatah, The Struggle for Palestine, in which he discusses the U.S. belief that the group on the State Department’s terrorist watchlist could easily take over the West Bank if not for continuous American aid to Fatah to counter an estimated $35 million annual investment in Hamas by Iran. After the 2006 election that swept Hamas to Gaza rule, the two factions engaged in a violent clash that rivaled anything seen between Arabs and the Israelis, Schanzer says. At the Brookings Institute on Thursday, Abbas was questioned by a Palestinian scholar about what he was doing to reunify the two governments, and he said he was working on it.
So the only people with less to gain from an open sea route to Gaza City than the Israelis are Abbas and his wobbly PA, who could one day find themselves looking at the business end of Iranian-supplied arms such as those that packed the hold of the Karine A, intercepted by Israel in 2002.
If Abbas had any integrity, and an interest in real progress, he might make a public statement supporting the necessity of the blockade so long as Hamas refuses to renounce violent struggle against both Jews and Palestinian rivals. Abbas must, in truth, be grateful for the few good men that patrol the coast of Gaza.
But, as Jack Nicholson might say, he can’t handle the truth.