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All Quiet on the West Bank

It is instructively ironic that the most vociferous and at times violent and/or vile protests and demonstrations against the Israeli assault on Gaza's Hamas terrorists have occurred in places like Paris, Ft. Lauderdale, Toronto and Damascus. Equally instructive is the relative silence from the other Palestinian territory, the West Bank. An AFP report notes the muted reaction from West Bank Palestinians, even in the face of (Hamas) calls for a broad, general uprising and a third intifada. Pay attention to the reasoning suggested by Bassam al-Salihi. While he is of course an interested 'third party,' namely a communist party, his explanation serves to support what we have suggested here; the absence of a real and viable alternative to Fatah or Hamas is a key contributor to the constant Palestinian inertia toward conflict.

Despite an appeal by Hamas for a third intifada, few in the West Bank appear to have much appetite for a new uprising in a mark of deep Palestinian divide and growing disenchantment with their leaders.

The first intifada erupted throughout the Palestinian territories in 1987 as anger at 20 years of occupation boiled over after six residents of Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp were run over and killed by an Israeli army vehicle.

But although the death toll from Operation Cast Lead is fast approaching the 1,000 mark, making it the deadliest ever Israeli offensive on the tiny strip of land, there have been no large-scale protests in the West Bank despite appeals by Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal.

Neither has there been, aside from isolated incidents, an outpouring of attacks on Israeli targets. "The Palestinian population no longer has any confidence in its national leaders, that's why there has been no mass mobilization against the Israeli operation in Gaza," said Bassam al-Salihi, a leader of the Popular party, which were formerly known as the communists.

Salihi said the public's disillusionment with their politicians stemmed in large part from their seemingly endless feuds.

The power of both Fatah and Hamas is indelibly linked to their provisions of public services. It is certainly key to their regenerative abilities, even after any military operation(s) decimate terrorist ranks and weapons. This is their strength, and the reason Hamas can claim victory simply by surviving this or any subsequent Israeli assaults. As my colleague Marvin Hutchens remarked in discussion of the same, for every old man Hamas feeds or assists, his sons and grandsons come into the fold, influenced by Hamas - through their provisions - perhaps joining its efforts if not joining the organization. And through this, Hamas retains the ability to regenerate, maintaining popular support and continuing to guide and influence through the mosques and neighborhood centers used to distribute food and other aid. Israel can never fully defeat this. It quite necessarily requires a Muslim, Palestinian alternative. Can Fatah be this, given time and space to moderate? History certainly is not friendly to the perceptible odds. But there remains no viable alternative and the status quo of a dominant Hamas is wholly unacceptable. One thing is for certain in the Palestinian Territories. While Hamas continues to get hammered in Gaza to the west, it's all quiet on the eastern front for the rest of the Palestinians.

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