President Mahmoud Abbas will ask President Obama to convince Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip when the two men meet Wednesday, the Maan News Agency reports.
Notwithstanding the fact that it is not in Israel's interest to allow anything and everything to get through to the Hamas-controlled territory, Abbas' request will ring hollow.
Here's why: Abbas doesn't want the siege to end. As one of his colleagues told The Jerusalem Post yesterday, the West Bank Palestinian leadership is "unhappy" with all of the attention that has been lavished upon Hamas in recent days, stemming from the Turkish-sponsored flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade.
"Turkey's policy is emboldening Hamas and undermining the Palestinian Authority," the official told The Jerusalem Post.
Hamas, for its part, angrily accuses Fatah of "trying to push [Hamas] out of Palestinian politics."
Indeed, at a moment where the world seems to be most aligned with the Palestinians in recent memory, the Palestinians are not aligned with themselves.
The background: Hamas conquered the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup d'etat in June 2007. Since then, the Palestinians have been a house divided. Hamas still controls Gaza with Taliban-style rule. Fatah, under the leadership of Abbas, clings to power in the West Bank with the help of U.S. and Israel. The two factions have remained in a constant state of hostility, despite repeated but failed attempts by outside parties to help them reconcile.
So, while analysts continue to speculate about what Abbas may ask of President Obama during their White House meeting, Obama should deliver the following message to the Palestinians:Before making demands on Washington decision-makers (for a Palestinian state next year), American taxpayers (for aid to fund that state), and Israel (to relinquish its security), the Palestinians must put their own house in order.
For real progress to be made on any number of thorny Middle East issues, the Palestinians must have a leader who represents both the West Bank and Gaza.
And by the way, that leader is not Abbas.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of "Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine" (Palgrave 2008).