The last few days have been obscenely hectic, events in the region, the Olmert US visit and a lot of media. I have also been reviewing media commentary and looking back at my own long analysis piece, I will be responding to some of your comments in a post soon.
A lot of the positions prospectsforpeace.com has been taking are echoing widely. A fair number of commentators, Israeli, Arab, and international, have pointed out the role of the boycott of the unity government in precipitating last week's events.
Ben Kaspit, the lead commentator in the Israeli Ma'ariv newspaper gives US policy a good portion of the 'credit' (translation courtesy of Mideast Mirror):
Bush holds preferred shares in the debacle. His democratic gambits set fire to the entire region, his black-or-white policy left the U.S. wading in another quagmire whose end in the U.S. has no hope of reaching. His policies scared off the moderate forces, bolstered the radical forces and have made the Middle East far more dangerous and volatile.
An Editorial leader in the UK Guardian describes the "Bitter Fruit of Boycott":
The sanctions did not encourage the unity government to function properly. They killed it off... Far from being a success, the international boycott on the Hamas-led national-unity government has proved to be a disaster.
And a Financial Times editorial adds this thought:
Palestinian leaders of all stripes are responsible for the collapse of their national project into quasi-tribal internecine war. But the Bush administration can add this mess to its catastrophic record in the Middle East. By imposing unrealistic preconditions, and then sanctions, on Hamas after its 2006 election victory, and then backing local Fatah warlords, it seemed actively to seek this violent outcome – another human disaster for the Palestinians.
Danny Rubinstein, the senior Palestinian analyst in Ha'aretz, spreads the blame more evenly:
The Primary reason for the break-up is the fact that Fatah... refused to fully share the PA's mechanism of power with its rival Hamas...
Fatah was forced to overrule the Palestinian voters because the entire world demanded it do so. The United States, the European nations, most of the Arab leaders and, of course, the State of Israel, warned Fatah not to share power with Hamas.
There have, of course, also been bitterly hostile exchanges -- verbal and written now, less military, between Hamas and Fatah personel over what happened. It does seem that Hamas moved preemptively to prevent the build-up of Dahlanist-Fatah force capacity in Gaza -- a build-up that Washington, Jerusalem, and others in the region were all active partners in.
There has been massive criticism, not only from Hamas, but also within important Fatah circles, of the role played by Dahlan and his deputies. Neither Dahlan, nor the head of the International Security Forces Rashid Abu Shibbak, nor a key Preventive Security Forces leader, Samir al-Mashharawi were actually in Gaza for any of last weeks clashes. Marwan Barghouti, from his Israeli cell, is leading the calls to sideline Dahlan.
As TV and Ma'ariv newspaper commentator Ofer Shelah notes (translation once again, Mideast Mirror):
Israel's contribution to this deterioration has also played a key role. Marwan Barghouti is in an Israeli jail and Israel continues to prefer the corrupt and weak Arafat cronies over the new generation of Fateh leaders.
Hamas, too, has hardly emerged smelling of roses! The cruelty on display from Hamas has received a very wide airing -- even if some of those focusing on it are rather late arrivals in expressing concern for Palestinian suffering. Both Fatah and Hamas have lost credibility.
Charles Levinson, who writes for several publications, has been blogging from Gaza at conflictblotter.com. He has some really useful insights and first hand accounts, including a post on how "Fatah Never Fought" and how betrayed their rank and file feel by a leadership who went awol. Levinson floats the following idea, and follows up by apologizing for sounding conspiratorial, so I will leave you with his musings:
Ousted Fatah loyalists in Gaza widely suspect a political decision was made early on in Ramallah to surrender the Gaza Strip to Hamas in order to extricate Abbas, Israel and the US from the seeming intractable pickle they were facing as infighting spiraled, living conditions worsened, and the peace process seemed hopelessly stuck. With the Palestinian territories now split, the US, Israel and Abbas suddenly have way forward, without compromising to Hamas.