ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Ghaith Omari is a former adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He's currently a fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. and he joins us now. Welcome.
Mr. GHAITH OMARI (Former Palestinian Authority Adviser): Thank you.
SIEGEL: First, can the Palestinian Authority, which appears to be so broken in Gaza, as of today, actually be restored to something resembling an effective government?
Mr. OMARI: Not in the current format, not in the previous format either. The attempt to create a national unity government in the Mecca agreement that was referred to earlier, it was an attempt to create a government that deals civil and economic issues while ignoring the security issues. They try to basically shove the security differences under the carpet and move along with civil and political. Right now, it's clear after this round of fighting and the previous rounds of fighting that the security issues, the multiplicity of armed gangs, has to be dealt with, otherwise no government can remain stable.
SIEGEL: Are the forces of the Palestinian authority of the Palestinian government capable of dealing with this?
Mr. OMARI: That's what we have to see right now. I mean, what we really are seeing right now is the fight for the control of the security sector. Hamas is trying to take over all of the Fatah's security services and the Palestinian official security services have not yet engaged fully in this confrontation. So I think we are still to see some more violence. However, as the report mentioned, Hamas is very well equipped, very well armed, very, very well trained, from Iran, from other sources. So we will see more bloodshed, I believe.
SIEGEL: While all this is going on in the Gaza Strip what is happening that's either similar or not similar in the West Bank, which is - which is discontiguous from the Gaza Strip?
Mr. OMARI: As of yet, almost nothing. I mean, there has been so far a trend to keep the violence in Gaza. However, we've been hearing, in the last few hours, threats from Fatah, in particular, which is stronger in the West Bank, that they will start targeting Hamas. If that happens, it will take the same form as in Gaza because there isn't similar security capabilities. However, that will take the form of kidnappings, maybe some targeted killings, not the same extent of widespread violence but quite as ugly.
SIEGEL: But we're within shouting distance of the same semantic dispute we heard about Iraq a year ago. Is it a civil war? I mean, Palestinians are fighting Palestinians aligned along two political factions.
Mr. OMARI: I mean, to be honest, I never understood what the term civil war means. What is clear, though, is that you have two armed factions, which are vying over power. You call this civil war, you call it whatever you want to call it, it doesn't matter. It has not yet taken the form of sectarian violence, ideologically motivated violence. It's not ethnic in its nature. However, it's real violence, as of yet, though, contained within identifiable security services.
SIEGEL: What about the dimension that the Fatah official told Eric Westervelt about it - about regional powers? He says they're backing Hamas. Who's lined up behind whom in this conflict?
Mr. OMARI: What obvious is that Iran has been funding Hamas with funds and with some training. Syria has been facilitating this. Other players are not very clear. For example, Egypt, while supporting Abbas on the one hand allows Hamas operatives to move through its territory, does not do enough to control the flow of weapons. Obviously, Abbas is being supported by Jordan, some elements in Egypt, and the United States. So it's starting to take even some form of proxy war.
SIEGEL: You said it is a struggle between two political groups.
Mr. OMARI: Yes.
SIEGEL: The differences between them - as to how they would govern Palestine -significant decisive or could one somehow manage a compromise between the two?
Mr. OMARI: I mean, they are very different in their approach. One is a religiously based organization, one is secular. What's interesting, though, that in this round of fighting and the previous rounds, this has not played out. Neither side has tried to play out its political agenda. It has really been a fight for control and for power.
Can the two sides be reconciled? Oh, yes. I mean, in politics everything is negotiable. We saw, for example, someone like Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas who until a few months ago was seen as the head extremist - once he got something out of the Mecca agreement, right now, he's a dove. He's one of the them who are actually pushing against this violence. So everything is negotiable here.
SIEGEL: Well, Ghaith Omari, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ghaith Omari, now with the new America Foundation in Washington, D.C. He's a former advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
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