Athens, Greece - There often comes a time in a war of liberation or revolution in which compromises can be made -- indeed, have to be made -- so that gains can be consolidated and the people can get some respite. Oppressed people usually win their struggle when their cause can be tied to the interests of greater powers, when they incur massive debts to help finance their fledgling institutions, when, in other words, they begin to act like a state. This inevitably entails huge compromises, but wars cannot be won on dreams alone.
The phase of consolidation need not be permanent. It may be a pause on the way to total victory or to the achievement of a lesser goal. But unless one is assured of military victory this is the only way that oppressed people can recoup their forces before marching on. Without getting into the endless details, the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian issue, in my mind the Palestinian cause has suffered greatly from the inability of its leaders to act with strategic wisdom.
Their struggle over the past 60 years has been ruled by the necessary maximalistic vision of overall victory. This may be the only way to inspire sacrifices by the population, but this power has not been harnessed to serious political thinking. Throughout the struggle, too often the easy "No" has triumphed over the difficult "Yes" to a deal that may be less than perfect -- until the Oslo Agreement, which created an entirely new situation on the ground. The fact that not all the details were worked out in that deal has lead to the current situation, where the Palestinians face a most dangerous division among their ranks. This is the result of the absolute targets set by the rival factions. No one has learned that compromise is part of the struggle. But the only alternative to compromise in this situation is to struggle on until only one side is left standing.
President Abbas, therefore, may be right in arguing that stability is more important than anything else right now. But this belief appears very late in the struggle and is perhaps a little disingenuous, give the political benefits (despite the high risk) of taking such a position against Hamas right now. Unless Hamas manages to turn itself inside out and reaches some agreement with Abbas, though, the Palestinian struggle may enter an even more tragic and even more fruitless phase -- fratricide.
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