Palestinian Stirrings

(Washington Post) Dennis Ross - * There is a new discourse in Gaza that includes all Palestinian factions and an open questioning of violence. According to Ziad Abu Amr, a Palestinian legislator and chairman of the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations, and Samir Shawa, a leading Palestinian businessman, Palestinians want to see the violence end. * Before Arafat's death, roughly 40% of Palestinians polled were optimistic about the future. Now the number is 59%. Before Arafat's death, Hamas's standing was higher than Fatah's - 32 to 29%. The most recent polls show Fatah at 46% and Hamas at 17%. * When there is no hope, Hamas and all radical Islamists will always do better. But when there is hope and a sense of promise, the secularist nationalists in Fatah are seen as most capable of delivering. * Israelis, who are open to helping the new Palestinian leadership, will understandably judge Abbas by what he does, not what he says, to stop terror. And Palestinians remain far more likely to try to co-opt Hamas and Islamic Jihad than to confront them. * That is why they will opt for a cease-fire, and why the Israelis will be highly suspicious that such a cease-fire would simply give Hamas and others the respite they need to rebuild the capability to carry out terrorism. It will take the active help of the U.S. to forge common understandings on what a cease-fire is and isn't, and how it will relate to obligations both sides have on the "road map" for the peace process. * Palestinians who believe in ending violence and in coexistence failed to deliver in the summer of 2003, when Abbas was prime minister. He and the reformers will shortly have a second chance. If they fail this time, they won't get a third. The writer was special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton and is now counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2005-01-03 00:00:00

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