Who Among the Palestinians Can Deliver?

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Zohar Palti - Parallel to the weakening of the old guard, new generations of leaders are emerging that have already become integral to the processes shaping Palestinian politics. The generation that led the first intifada in the 1980s gained credibility as local leaders primarily by carrying out successful terror activities against Israel; many served Israeli jail terms, and, accordingly, gained greater familiarity with Israeli society, politics, and culture. Members of this generation, who are generally opposed to using terror as a political tool, include Hussein al-Sheikh, Abed Elfatach Hamil, Qadura Fares, Hani al-Hasan, and more prominent figures such as Muhammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub. In the course of the present conflict, a younger generation of leaders has arisen, consisting of the children of the first intifada who grew up and matured into the current conflict as terrorist leaders. Many have criminal backgrounds, and most are poor and largely uneducated. Members of the "young generation" such as Zachrya Zbidi from Jenin, Naef Abu Sharh from Nablus, Nasser Masuda from Hebron, Khaled Shawish from Ramallah, Nasser Awis from Nablus, Muhammad Naifa from Tulkarem, and Abdel Karim Awis from Jenin have become local heroes, mainly due to their involvement in terrorist activity. Hizballah is controlling the young generation from outside the West Bank through money and operational instructions. A new tier of middlemen has also emerged, serving to mediate between the young and the intermediate generations. Most are political activists whose link to terrorism is weaker and most hold political posts at Fatah regional offices. Hussam Shahin, head of the Jerusalem Fatah Youth; Abdel Wahab Shada, secretary of Fatah's Tulkarem headquarters; and Ita Abu Ramila, secretary of Fatah's Jenin headquarters could eventually combine their local political power with access to field activists and financial aid from the intermediate generation to curb Palestinian radicals. At present, no one in the PA seems to be able to control the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Dahlan lacks meaningful influence in the West Bank, and Rajoub has no real hold in Gaza. Because of the fragmented layout of the West Bank, it is doubtful whether a single figure exists that can control the Palestinian cities. The current Palestinian leadership is fragmented, weak, uncoordinated, and primarily preoccupied with personal infighting. With the old guard still around - and with money and institutions remaining subordinate to Arafat and his loyalists - there will be no real possibility for fundamental change. IDF Col. Zohar Palti is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute.

2004-05-05 00:00:00

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