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December 19, 2006
Blair Rejects Hamas

Tony Blair made clear yesterday that he considers the Hamas government to have no legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority. Blair endorsed Mahmoud Abbas' call for early elections despite uncertainty of his authority to do do:

Rival Palestinian factions ignored an overnight truce and resumed fighting in Gaza as Tony Blair placed himself in the middle of the nascent civil war.

Hamas fighters abducted a senior Fatah official, who was later released, and another Fatah supporter was killed. “This ceasefire risks being blown away in the wind,” a Fatah spokesman said.

The fighting came hours after Mr Blair publicly backed President Abbas, head of the secular Fatah party, in his power struggle with Hamas, his Islamist rivals. Mr Blair declared Hamas to be an obstacle to peace because of its refusal to recognise Israel. “Nobody should have a veto on progress,” he said.

Standing alongside Mr Abbas in Ramallah, the Prime Minister said: “The international community needs to mobilise its efforts to support you in your office as President, to support the Palestinian people and make sure we stand ready to do everything we can.”

Blair went farther than the US has in endorsing Abbas on a personal level, perhaps a bit too far. The US has rejected the Hamas government from the beginning, refusing to deal with a terrorist group whether or not they win election. The Bush administration has cut off funding for the PA while Hamas remains in charge, but they have been careful not to bolster Mahmoud Abbas on such a personal level.

Blair will probably regret the gesture. Abbas, after all, runs Fatah -- an organization that also uses terror to hold power. Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade conducts the same kind of operations as Hamas gunmen in Gaza -- including attacks on Israelis. Fatah doesn't have the same streak of radical Islam as Hamas, but that's a small consideration for the Israelis. It matters little whether Islamist or secular terrorists wipe them out, even if it apparently matters to the West.

In any case, the early elections will not matter much, and for the same reason. Palestinians still will have the choice between two flavors of terrorists. Fatah will not sign off on an Israeli state even if Abbas might -- might -- agree to it. The British and the Americans might be encouraging elections just to get a civil war going that could finally force the Palestinians to jettison all of their current leaders and to find a leadership class that will work towards a true and lasting peace.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2006 5:01 AM

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