Africa and the Middle East

Let’s Help the Good Guys in the West Bank

March 5, 2008  • Walter Isaacson

The rocket attacks on Israel launched by Hamas militants in Gaza, coupled with Israel’s retaliation, have disrupted peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This is a great victory for the radicals in Hamas, who never wanted such talks. While visiting the region this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to remind everyone that the real goal is to weaken Hamas.

One way to do that is to strengthen its moderate Palestinian opponents. Fortunately, there is a smart and honest leader of these forces: Salam Fayyad, an apolitical economist (with a doctorate from the University of Texas) who is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas appointed him to replace a Hamas-led government after Hamas forces seized control of Gaza last June. We have a perfect opportunity — which will probably last no more than a year if it’s not energetically nurtured — to show Palestinians that supporting moderates such as Fayyad, rather than the radicals of Hamas, can pay off by producing prosperity and peace.

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