President Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office on Wednesday after which he called for sharply limiting Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip in the wake of the botched Israeli naval raid that's straining U.S. and Israeli relations with allies.
The White House also announced a $400 million aid package for Gaza and the West Bank.
An expert on counterterrorism and author of the book, "Hamas vs. Fatah, The Struggle for Palestine," Jonathan Schanzer says 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, oh by the way, he says, that leader is not Abbas.
In fact, Schanzer said in speaking to the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation on Monday evening at Congregation Achduth Vesholom, therein lies the problem with the Palestinians, who he says have been engaged in an under-reported civil war. Schanzer says the Palestinians need a leader— "a Martin Luther King Jr., a Nelson Mandela, a Mahatma Ghandi" — if there is ever hope for peace with Israel.
And that leader, he insists, cannot be from Hamas, nor from Fatah.
In his talk Monday and on his blog, schanzer.punditcity.com, Schanzer, vice president of research of the Founation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C., explained how Hamas conquered the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup d'etat in 2007.
"Since then," he says, "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 [the] 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."
Schanzer says there are, indeed, candidates in Palestine who could conceivably be that special leader truly seeking peace and not the violent and untenable outcomes sought by the warring factions that now dominate the Palestinian mind-set. But, he says, of those three or four potential leaders who seek only the best for a Palestinian nation, at tops one might only represent 1 percent of popular support.
"Palestine needs a leader," says Schanzer, "who wants peace and a whole Palestinian state." He believes all the details have to be worked out before any real peace plan is possible. And that, he maintains, will take time.
In the meantime, he warns, it must be remembered that the powers that both Hamas and Fatah follow ideologies that seek the destruction of Israel. And that, of course, is no foundation for peace.