Palestinian PM Fayyad’s Exit May Usher in Hamas’ West Bank takeover

By submitting his resignation as Palestinian prime minister Saturday, March 7, the pro-American Salam Fayyad removes a major roadblock to a power-sharing accord between the extremist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, which governs the West Bank.
The unity talks have still a way to go. They may fail as they have before. And Fayyad’s resignation may not be final.
And accord, however, would open the door to Hamas domination of the West Bank in the same way as the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamists threw the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority out of Gaza two years ago.
Fayyad confirmed that his resignation would go into effect after the “unity government” was formed – although not later than the end of March. His exit removes Washington’s man in the Palestinian Authority’s Ramallah government in perfect time for the power-sharing talks to resume in Cairo Tuesday March 10.
His action, three days after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton held well-publicized talks with Fayyad and Abbas in Ramallah, comes as a serious blow to America prestige and one up for Iran and its Palestinian proxy.
Clearly Abbas and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, godfather of “Palestinian unity”, are working to a different clock to that of Washington.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources affirm that, by holding back from toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza, Israel must take responsibility for helping to empower the Palestinian terrorists to dictate a power-sharing deal on its terms and at its tempo.
The Palestinian negotiations will no doubt try and race toward a conclusion before the end of March at around the same time as Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu will be introducing his government coalition.
With all this happening, the Palestinian prime minister, a former World Bank economist in Washington, saw that in a unity government, his only function would be to act as a respectable non-terrorist address for the receipt of the $5.5 billion dollars the international donors meeting in Sharm e-Sheikh on March 2 approved for Gaza reconstruction.
This would reduce him to a figurehead, the public face of a Palestinian regime which brought the Hamas terrorists to power in the two Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
It is too soon to judge the success of this dodge in persuading world governments to cough up the funds they have committed for Gaza. Hamas has no other need of the former Washington-based banker and in fact, one of its conditions for sharing government with Fatah was his removal.
The deal is not yet in the bag. More than once, debkafile‘s Middle East sources have stressed that the Palestinian extremists and their Syrian and Iranian sponsors would on no account form a partnership with a Palestinian element cooperating with the United States and Israel in security and intelligence matters. Fayyad epitomizes this joint effort and Abbas may decide to sacrifice him for an agreement with Hamas.
Once installed in government, Hamas would get set for sweeping the coming Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010, thereby closing the circle of its domination of the West Bank.
This election date was another of Hamas’ conditions for its partnership-in-government with Fatah.
This unfolding scenario, which bodes ill for central Israel as Hamas’ next target after the missile-battered South, could have been prevented.
debkafile‘s military sources report that towards the end of its January offensive, the IDF command gave Israel’s security cabinet an estimated four-hour timetable for seizing Hamas leaders hidden in bunkers in Gaza City together with the captive Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit. Israeli intelligence had discovered their whereabouts and the way to their hideout had been cleared. Hamas was no longer fighting.
But prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who headed the war cabinet, shied away from a decision. Their indecision, by offering the terrorist leaders a lifeline against total defeat, left them free to come out of their holes and gear up for their next venture, takeover of Palestinian government.
It may be recalled that the Olmert government also distinguished itself in 2006 by succumbing to misguided pressure from Washington and letting Hamas run for election. Its victory paved the way for its seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in January 2006. Finally, in January 2008, the same government, this time with Ehud Barak attached as defense minister, opened the door for Hamas to move in on the West Bank by sealing a pact with Fatah.
This dangerous reality may be lurking for Israel’s post-election administration under Netanyahu before it has a chance to take preventive action. He need not count on salvation from Washington. The Obama administration, Secretary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell, would no doubt find it politic to avoid noticing the terrorist element dominating the Palestinian “unity government.” They would insist that their dealings with the Palestinians are confined to the “good,” non-terrorist factions.
Washington would try and hold up the Palestinian security forces and presidential guard trained by US national security adviser James Jones’ American instructors as safeguards against any Hamas takeover of Ramallah and other West Bank towns.
It would be convenient to forget that those same Palestinian Authority forces did not fire a shot against the coup Hamas staged in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

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