Hopes that Fatah will be a calming influence on Hamas in the effort to end the fighting in Gaza have been tempered by mixed messages the supposedly more moderate wing of Palestinian leadership is sending to its international audience and its West Bank constituents - including boasting on its Facebook page of the number of Israelis it has killed.
In a post seemingly aimed at reminding Palestinians it hates Israel as much as Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that governs Gaza, the Fatah party seems to take issue with the idea that it isn't doing enough to fight the Jewish state. The belligerent Facebook message - containing fabricated statistics - was posted on the official home page of Fatah’s Facebook even as representatives of the party founded by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were in Cairo for the peace talks.
“Listen well! To whoever does not know Fatah and argues with this giant movement:
Fatah has killed 11,000 Israelis; Fatah has sacrificed 170,000 Martyrs (Shahids)...; Fatah was the first to carry out operations (i.e., terror attacks) during the first Intifada... Fatah was the first to fight in the second Intifada (i.e., PA terror campaign 2000-2005)... Fatah led the Palestinian attack on Israel in the UN... Fatah leads the peaceful popular resistance against Israel... Stop and think before you attack [Fatah]."
Fatah has been led since 2005 by Mahmoud Abbas whose benign international media persona portrays an image of a venerable elder statesman. But Palestinian Media Watch, which first raised attention to the post, believes Fatah’s highlighting of its terror activities is a tactic designed to appease radicals within its own West Bank, as well as remind elements of Palestinian society clearly attracted by Hamas’ armed opposition to Israel, that Fatah also has terror options at its fingertips - and a track record to prove it. That said, most experts agree that at the present time Fatah is the best amongst very limited options for stabilizing the current cycle of violence between Israel and Hamas.
“The capability of Fatah and the PA to comply with what I assume would be their tasks in the course of implementing a ceasefire is the best alternative between two not good alternatives that we have,” Gilead Sher, Israel’s chief negotiator (1999-2001) in the Camp David and Taba talks and head of the Center for Applied Negotiations (CAN) at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told FoxNews.com.
He said double talk from Fatah has long been standard procedure, with one message for international audiences and another for the people it governs.
“In the past we’ve seen numerous times that the PA spoke in different languages saying different things. There was the language for satisfying western listeners, then another language, usually in Arabic, that was made to satisfy Arab speakers. More importantly, we have seen them on several occasions resorting to terrorism, violence, and acts of indiscriminately aiming at civilians in order to attain more than they could at that point in time around the negotiation table. This is a practice we saw mainly during Arafat’s period” Sher added.
“We are also seeing during these very days the unilateral and blunt submissions of applications [by the PA] to various international tribunals and entities in order to corner Israel into gaining what should be gained around the negotiation table, but by other means” Sher noted. “However, Mahmoud Abbas, I think, has expressly said on various occasions that the way to achieve Palestinian objectives does not come through violence against Israel.”
The task facing Abbas’ PA in proving a moderating force on Hamas will not be an easy one. Both Palestinian parties are highly distrustful of one another, regularly citing attempts by one faction to destabilize the other, a situation that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of any potential ceasefire plan.
“Hamas leader Salah Bardawil presented four documents allegedly incriminating Fatah in a campaign of incitement against Hamas,” the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported only last week. “Bardawil said Hamas possessed hundreds of documents revealing incitement by Fatah, in an hour-long program aired by the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV channel.”
Ma’an reported that Majid Faraj, the head of the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Service, had referred to the reports as "absurd and not worth responding to."
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster and at www.paulalster.com