There's another dimension to the Hamas/Fatah civil war. Al Qaeda may be poised to pick up the pieces. As Soumaya Ghannoushi writes in The Guardian, Washington and London may have done it again:
"Since declaring jihad in 1998, al-Qaida has aspired to acquire the legitimacy of representing the Palestinian cause, well aware of its rich symbolism within the Arab and Islamic collective conscience
"When Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri issued their "Jihad against Jews and Crusaders" statement on February 28 1998, responses to their declaration varied from apathy to amusement. They were an obscure group lost in the faraway emirate of the Taliban, a pathetic remnant of the fight against the USSR during the cold war. Their role looked historically defunct and their discourse archaic.
"Things could not be more different now. Al-Qaida has become an intensely complex global network, with a decentralised, flexible structure that enables it to spread in all directions, across the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe. Whether pursuing active cells or searching for sleeping ones, the security world is haunted by al-Qaida's ghost.
"The organisation's penetration of Palestinian politics is the climax of a long, still unfolding process. Rapidly expanding from one location to another, al-Qaida currently boasts branches throughout the Arab region. ...Nationalist demands and aspirations of liberation of Palestine, independence from foreign dominance, and sovereignty over resources, began to be spoken with an Islamic voice, in a region where the national and the Islamic have always been intimately intertwined.
"With the severe restrictions imposed on them by their western-backed governments and the evaporation of American promises of reform and democratisation, this "democratic Islam" currently finds itself in the grip of a crisis. The greatest beneficiary is al-Qaida. In the Middle East, its battles are fought on two fronts: against "traitor" regimes and their western backers on the one hand, and against popular Islamist oppositions deemed "deviant from the true path of jihad" on the other. In a speech recently broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite channel, al-Zawahiri scolded Hamas for straying from the path of resistance by participating in the political process.
"Events on the ground give further credibility to al-Zawahiri's words. Arabs have watched with horror as Palestinians have been severely punished for their electoral choices, isolated, starved, and propelled towards the bottomless pit of internecine feuding. The message from Washington and London seemed to be: don't bother with the ballot box - only through bombings and violence is change possible. Between occupation and obstruction of peaceful change, the US is creating the ideal environment for al-Qaida to flourish, the product of a sick geopolitics and a deformed view of the region and its needs."