The creation of a new moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank has been welcomed in the West. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kicked Hamas out of the Palestinian unity government last week after the Islamist group took control of the Gaza Strip following a week of fighting. HeÂ appointed the independent politician Salam Fayyad as the new prime minister to head up an emergency government.Â Both the European Union and the United States have since recognized the new administration as legitimate, both lifting a 15-month aid embargo imposed after Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that she called Fayyad on Monday to inform him that Washington would resume full assistance as well as bilateral contacts with his government. And President George W. Bush phoned Abbas on Monday to offer his support. The Palestinian leader said he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, seven years after they broke down with the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising.
Bush and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are meeting today in Washington and will discuss developments in the Palestinian territories. Olmert has announced the new Abbas' governmentÂ in the West Bank offers hope for peacemaking.
However, Â whileÂ a diplomatic offensive with the new administration in the West Bank is underway , Israel plans to cut offÂ all but humanitarian supplies. "Gaza is a terrorist-controlled entity now," an Israeli official told Reuters. "No financial assistance can go to any entity or person with connections to the Hamas-run administration."
The press Â in Europe wonders ifÂ the Western leaders Â know what they are doing.Â German commentators on Tuesday comment on recent developments in the Palestinian territories and someÂ consider Â that any peace deal that is only with Fatah has little chance of success.
The Berliner Zeitung writes:
"It is amazing what President Abbas has achieved with the creation of an emergency government. Suddenly the whole world is full of boundless energy and untarnished optimism ... Israel's Prime Minister Olmert is even talking about a new opportunity for the peace process."
"When Mahmoud Abbas became president after Yasser Arafat's death, he was allowed to starve politically and economically ... Hamas then capitalized in the elections in January 2006 from the social and economic misery.... Now, judging by the reactions of Israel and the US, things are fantastic: Now that there is a Fatah government again, it is possible to talk about peace treaties."
"Unfortunately, the reality looks somewhat different and it's pretty scary: The Palestinian territories are finally split in two. Where would the peace accords lead, where would a Palestinian state arise? What is the use of an emergency government or a peace treaty with it, if they are both only recognized by Fatah supporters?"
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"The European Union wants to resume its financial aid to the Palestinians: more precisely to President Mahmoud Abbas' emergency government ... (this) only makes sense if there are clear targets linked with it."
"It is clear that the president will steer some of the aid money to the renegade Gaza Strip, whether it be to ease the plight of the people there, or to secure the loyalty of soldiers and policemen who are not cooperating with Hamas."
"What does the EU want, against this background? To strengthen Abbas and Fatah, so that they can take their revenge against Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Or wait until the problem of 'Hamastan' has solved itself -- or has been solved by the Israeli Army? The European Union has to quickly formulate a strategy for dealing with the two enemy Palestinian camps."
Die Welt writes:
"Hamas was not elected by a desperate population to plunge Gaza and the West Bank into a civil war, but because the Islamist militia seemed less plagued by corruption and self-interest than the PLO and its Fatah militia. The Islamists could have dedicated themselves to creating jobs, and improving living conditions and education.""Did the boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government by America and the EU cause the disaster? There was no shortage of money: There was always enough there for weapons, from smuggling, human trafficking and the subsidies with which Syria and particularly Iran bought influence.
"What next? The government formed by Abbas in Ramallah should be supported. But Gaza cannot be won back."
Â Handeslsblatt writes:
"We are now seeing the effects of an American policy that has concentrated on Iraq and Afghanistan for years. In the shadow of this conflagration, the political structures in other parts of the Middle East are deteriorating."
"There has been no road map to peace since the victory of Hamas in 2006. But to keep the idea of the peace process alive, the realities were ignored.... The US and the West is now witnessing the full force of the shifts in balances of power due to the Iraq war. What is happening in Gaza and the West Bank cannot be seen in isolation. Without the failure in Iraq, Iran would never have reached its current position of being a regional power. Tehran would not have been able to so openly provide Hamas or Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons and money."
"And without the fatal course of the war in Iraq, the image of the US as a mediator in the Middle East would not have sunk to such a low point ..."
TheÂ SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"No one in Israel or the West wants to hear about past failures or defeats. The motto of the new diplomatic offensive is: in every crisis there is an opportunity ... Abbas and Fatah should now be strengthened, in order to cancel out Hamas. So now the Palestinian president can suddenly enjoy the gushing attention, which would certainly have helped him a lot more if it had come earlier."
"However, it is highly doubtful that this manic Western diplomacy will succeed. The result of helping Abbas could be a more deeply divided Palestinian society. Anyone who takes money from the West and negotiates with Israel will very quickly be accused of being a traitor."
"The West and Israel should be careful about interfering too much, if they don't want their initiatives to be counter-productive."
"But it will be difficult to hold back, because so much is at stake: (The Palestinian Territories are) on the brink of a civil war, and that is not only dangerous for Israel. The fight that has broken out between the radicals and the moderates is, rather, a prototype for the conflicts in the Arab world."
The GuardianÂ (UK)Â publishes Â an analysis byÂ Dilip HiroÂ suggesting Israel and the West's renewal of support forÂ Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah , after several years of neglect,Â perhaps comes too late to reverse the strength of Hamas.
"Contrary to the popular perception in the west, Hamas scored a victory in the Gaza Strip last week not over Fatah as a whole but over a faction led by Muhammad Dahlan who, according to Hamas, had been advancing an Israel-American agenda in the Palestinian territories by orchestrating the killings of prominent Hamas members since its electoral success in January 2006.
Aware of factionalism in Fatah, leaders of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, had surreptitiously formed an informal alliance with Fatah's moderate members, present and past. After the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, one of their leaders, Khaled Abu Helal welcomed the purging of the "collaborators and traitors" from Fatah by Hamas.
This was one of the contributory factors that brought about the Gaza takeover by Hamas. The overall reasons for the triumph of Hamas, electoral and military, are best seen as short-term and long-term, with the latter sub-divided into domestic and external.
Aside from the members of the elite Presidential Guard, armed and equipped with money received from Washington, and the long-established Preventive Security Service (PSS) run by Dahlan, those working for the other Fatah-controlled security forces lacked discipline and motivation.
When push came to shove, most of them ignored the calls to defend their stations, and stayed at home. "Most of the decent security men [of Fatah] do not want to fight for Dahlan, or Israel or America," said an unnamed Gaza resident. "They don't feel they should be killed for the American or Israeli agenda." This was not surprising: the chief reason for serving the Fatah-controlled security forces has often been monetary.
By contrast Hamas militiamen, unpaid volunteers, acted as a disciplined force and battled bravely. They were highly motivated with a strong belief in what they were ordered to do by their commanders.
There was no dearth of arms and ammunition on the Hamas side. The weapons for its military wing have been coming from Egypt clandestinely through the tunnels the Palestinians have dug between the border of Gaza and Egypt, with arms dealers on both sides of the frontier ready to trade for hard cash. ...Â Hamas displayed a high level of organisation and discipline in battle as it had done in the general election in January 2006...
Hamas (Arabic acronym of Harkat al Muqawama al Islami, ie Movement of Islamic Resistance) evolved out of the Islamic Centre - established in 1973 by Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, to run social, welfare and religious institutions in Gaza - after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 1987.
A believer in long-term planning, Yassin (assassinated by the Israelis in 2004), began targeting high-school students, and secured a base among them. Two decades later, working as doctors, engineers, journalists, lawyers and computer technicians, they provided a leadership corps for Hamas which gained steady support from the religious, socially conservative working and lower-middle classes.
As with the Islamic Centre before, Hamas was financed mainly by its supporters worldwide, both Palestinians and non-Palestinians, who made contributions to it as part of the zakat. An Islamic tax, zakat varies from 2.5% on merchandise to 10% on crops. Most of its funds were spent on charity, such as giving interest-free loans to the needy, and the construction and running of clinics and mosques. These activities helped Hamas to build a popular base. ...
Â Hamas leaders derive their moral and ethical values from the scriptures. They are therefore free from corruption, and their personal lives are unblemished. This matters a great deal to Palestinians who find Fatah leaders venal and corrupt, feathering their nests and living ostentatiously...
Given the deep roots that Hamas has grown in Palestinian society, it would be hard for Fatah leaders to reverse the trend, even if they receive much financial aid and diplomatic support from the pro-American Arab camp and Washington. Their best bet therefore is to seek reconciliation with Hamas. "