The Palestinians' Two Camps
The Palestinians are today divided into two major camps, both physically and ideologically.
The first is a radical camp led by Hamas and other extremists. This camp does not recognize Israel's right to exist and seeks to replace the Jewish state with an Islamist emirate.
This camp believes that the whole land - from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River - is Muslim-owned territory and no one has the right to give up any part of it.
Those who think that the radical camp represents a tiny minority of Palestinians are living under an illusion. Hamas's victory in parliamentary, municipal and stunted council elections over the past five years is proof that a large number of Palestinians support the Islamist movement's ideology.
The "Arab Spring" that has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries has only emboldened the radical camp in the Palestinian arena. Many Palestinian political analysts and even some top Fatah leaders in Ramallah are convinced that Hamas will win the next parliamentary election, when and if it takes place in May.
The radical Palestinian camp is openly saying that it does not want to negotiate with Israel. At best, this camp is prepared to stop terror attacks against Israel -- temporarily. But when the time comes, the radicals will resume their effort to eliminate Israel and establish an Islamist regime.
The problem is that some Westerners do nit want to listen to the messages coming out of the radicals. Even more disturbing, there are some Westerners and naive Israelis who are even convinced that Hamas is marching toward pragmatism and moderation.
The second Palestinian camp is represented by "moderates" like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. The problem with this camp is that it does not enjoy much support among Palestinians. The leaders of this camp are often denounced by the people as puppets in the hands of Israel and the US.
This camp is saying that it wants to negotiate with Israel about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Abbas and his officials in Ramallah sometimes say that this is the only way to achieve a comprehensive and everlasting peace in the Middle East.
Yet this week, following the fifth session of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan, where Abbas's representatives demanded a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, several Palestinian radical groups, including, of course Hamas, rushed to condemn the demand.
The radicals announced that Abbas does not have a mandate to ask for a state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The radicals want all the land - from the "sea to the river." They want Haifa and Jaffa before Ramallah and Gaza.
Given the fact that the radical camp does not represent a tiny minority, it is obvious that any agreement signed today with Abbas and Fayyad will be rejected by many Palestinians. In other words, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will not end the Israeli-Arab conflict.