Jeffrey Goldberg had a piece on Hamas in yesterday’s New York Times that Noam Scheiber hailed as “hands down the best thing I’ve read since the Gaza conflict started.” Jon Chait deemed it “fantastic” and recommended this conclusion especially:
The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas’s enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.
I wasn’t that big a fan of the piece, analytically, though it certainly is admirably witty. But be that as it may, it would certainly be desirable to see the more practical crew running Fatah having more support and control over the situation. But Israel’s attacks on Gaza are causing the reverse to happen just as the war in Lebanon 30 months ago had that effect. And, indeed, how Israel’s settlement expansions and growing network of roadblocks and special highways crossing the West Bank are weakening Fatah and the forces of Palestinian moderation. And of course recall that it was deliberate Israeli—and American—policy to weaken Fatah for years after the collapse of the Camp David talks. This “help Hamas’s enemy, Fatah” strategy is fine but it needs to be backed up by real steps. And the United States probably needs to take the lead since the Israeli political dynamic has become myopically focused on short-term issues. A president willing to demand a real freeze on settlement activity would be a great first step.