Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian party, has been badly embarrassed by one of its most senior officials, Hani Al Hassan, who has described other Fatah officials as collaborators who served the interests of the Americans and Israelis.

Following the takeover of Gaza by Fatah's militant Islamist rival, Hamas, Al Hassan spoke out on Al Jazeera against the Fatah government of President Mahmoud Abbas, describing the Hamas takeover as "not a war" between Hamas and Fatah, but one between Hamas and collaborators, adding that what was happening in the Gaza was a defeat for the Americans.

Al Hassan's attack hurt Abbas, who retaliated quickly by dismissing Al Hassan from his post of senior presidential adviser. But Abbas cannot dismiss Al Hassan's record.

He ran his own commando group in the early 1960s, which he merged into Fatah in 1963, he was an aide to Yasser Arafat after 1974 and he joined the Fatah General Council in 1980, and later was Palestine's Interior Minister from 2002.

It is a mark of the desperation with which Palestinians are seeking a way forward, that a man such as Al Hassan with these years of service to Fatah and the Palestinian cause, should speak out so strongly in favour of Hamas, condemning Fatah policies in the strongest possible terms for a country under occupation, using the terrible word "collaborator".

This dispute between Fatah loyalists, like the split between Fatah and Hamas, goes to the issue right at the heart of Palestinian politics, which is how to deal with the Israelis in the light of their decades of refusing to give away anything of substance to Palestine and their disinterest in seeking peace.

Different Palestinian groups have very different answers, ranging from continued armed resistance to dialogue and negotiation.

Those who see Israel as impossible to deal with, based on its duplicitous record and long established ability to dodge any serious commitment to the two-state solution, favour continuing the armed struggle.

Any Palestinian has to agree with that analysis of Israel's record, but many have sought to move to a solution based on politics and negotiation.

The obvious problem is that talks require two parties and this means that any Palestinian seeking a political solution is forced to try to work with Israel, as Fatah has now done for many years.

This gives Israel the priceless advantage of being able to manipulate any talks to their own advantage whenever they want.

It means that while Fatah might propose the much tested route of two-state solution, as developed at many summits including Camp David, Oslo, and Wye River, Israel can make vague noises and do nothing to take it forward, while continuing to occupy the West Bank as they want, continuing to build their wall, mount road blocks and arrest who they want, including ministers in the elected Palestinian government.

This means that Fatah is bound to be discredited with its people, since it cannot deliver on its central policy, which is to work with the Israelis to find a long term solution.

Of course, in addition, Fatah has its own electoral problems with its poor record in government, including corruption which was condemned by its own parliament, and all sorts of administrative chaos.

Far away

What might link both Fatah and Hamas in the future is that they both want to be able to negotiate with Israel from a position of as much strength as possible, and strength comes out of the armed struggle.

This means that Hamas need not be that far away from Fatah, since its continued willingness to fight can build a strong political base from which it can deal with the Israelis later, as Fatah did some years ago when it moved to seek a solution through politics.

Hamas did the same early last year when it agreed to stand in the Palestinian general elections, and having won the elections, it then agreed to form a government and declare a truce. It moved into the political arena, but a year and a half later, its frustrations with the lack of progress boiled over and the present crisis started.

Palestinian politics will continue to revolve around this core issue until there is a full negotiated peace. Parties such as Hamas will try to form the government, and its supporters will not be prepared to put up with years of frustrating quibbles from Israel.

Respected men such as Al Hassan will not be able to endure the grim reality of trying to work with Israel while at the same time seeing the daily effect of occupation continue on the streets.

And parties such as Fatah will find their credibility weakened as the respect it gathered from the armed struggle fades after a decade of political work in Palestine.

Your comments

Fatah thought that by calling their senior members Mr President and Mr Minister, and having red carpets and a flag, that they achieved something. Therefore they went on a spending spree for BMW's and Audi's, when in fact they had not even covered the first few yards in the thousand mile drive for statehood. Luckily for people like me, this never materialised since there is nothing more I hate than to see my beloved homeland divided. Let it all be all n the hands of Israel and we be there, rather than split it in an unfair way. A homeland is like one?s own child: you don't split it with strangers. Let them keep it while they can. It will all be always ours.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 05, 2007, 10:57

They can be and will never be any lasting peace in Israel and Palestine, until the rest of the world treat both as equals. No money unless it is given equally to both sides, then the two sides will quit fighting each other. No free gift unless it is given to both. No work contract unless it is given to both equally. Guess what? This would stop 85% of the world trouble within 2 years
Joe Jr
Posted: July 05, 2007, 09:09