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Fruits of the Bibi-Obama meeting?

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Only three days past the big Bibi-Obama meeting in Washington, are we already seeing its effects?

  • On Thursday, Israeli police dismantled an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank.
  • On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to Israel and said he’s willing to talk to Syria without preconditions.

Meanwhile, following Ron Kampeas’ excellent analyses of the meeting between Netanyahu and President Obama on Monday (see here and here), the New York Times offers its own, mostly concurring, assessment, in "Keeping Score on Obama vs. Netanyahu."

On the other side of the security fence, the Times reports, the Palestinians are still trying to sort out their own affairs:

Fatah, the core of the Palestinian national movement for five decades, has the organizational transparency of a Soviet republic and was long run like one by its founder, Yasir Arafat. Talk of reform arose after his death five years ago and again when Hamas defeated it in legislative elections in 2006.

But shock after shock has done little to induce change. The movement has been paralyzed by competing personal alliances and a continuing identity crisis, and has not held a congress in 20 years. While the gap between the Fatah-led West Bank and the Hamas-led Gaza is widely recognized, less appreciated is that Fatah itself, which the West trains and helps, is so internally torn that it is scarcely able to negotiate or govern.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a new government with greater Fatah representation among the ministers but little change in policy.

“We are on a sinking ship, and the leadership thinks it can save us by plugging a hole,” lamented Qaddoura Fares, a leading Fatah advocate of change and peace with Israel. “We have to wake up and stop lying to ourselves. We call ourselves a democratic movement, but what democratic movement hasn’t met in 20 years?”

Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki offers his analysis of the Fatah dilemma on the Times’ Op-Ed page:

The Fatah faction, in the West Bank, controls the executive branch of government and the security services. Its political rival, Hamas, controls the Gaza Strip and the Parliament, but the Parliament is unable to exercise authority over the government. With no oversight, the government allows flagrant violations of law to go unpunished. Meanwhile, the security services have detained hundreds of people suspected of being a part of Hamas, often without charge or trial, and torture is sometimes used in their interrogation.

Nor is the Palestinian Authority able to translate its recent accomplishments into political gains in its negotiations with Israel. Israel is ignoring its own obligations under the United States-backed peace proposal known as the road map, most notably to freeze settlement construction and to dismantle its widespread network of checkpoints in the West Bank. As a result, critics are accusing the Fatah government of collaborating with Israeli occupation.

And the worst is yet to come. Soon, the Palestinian Authority will confront its biggest constitutional crisis since its inception in 1994. In January, President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader who was elected in 2005, and the Hamas-controlled Parliament, elected in 2006, will come to the end of their terms. Hamas and Fatah have not arranged for new elections.

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