As PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party last weekend marked 48 years since the group’s founding – first as a guerrilla organization and later as a Western-backed political movement – Mr. Abbas has reaffirmed his party’s commitment to nonviolent means.
But in the wake of the November conflict between Israel and Hamas, he faces a serious challenge in persuading Palestinians that his model is better than Hamas’s militant approach. While Abbas got a boost from the recent United Nations vote, which recognized Palestine as a non-member state instead of just an observer, he is still seen as fighting an uphill battle.
“There has been a shift from negotiations to struggle against the [Israeli] occupation,” says Hassan Khresheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who lives in the West Bank city of Tulkarem. “[Palestinians] believe that negotiating for many years has given them nothing except more settlements and more settlers.”
Indeed, after nearly 20 years of negotiation with Israel, during which Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem roughly doubled to more than 550,000, Palestinians are increasingly questioning the value of talking with Israel. By contrast, most Palestinians saw Hamas – which targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with missiles for the first time – as victorious in the recent conflict, since Israel refrained from a ground invasion and made significant concessions in the cease-fire talks.