Internal Political Fights Plague Middle East Israel's Likud Party and the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas are being consumed by internal conflicts. The outcome of these struggles could have a major impact on relations in the Middle East.

Internal Political Fights Plague Middle East

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In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, completed on September 12th, there have been sporadic exchanges of rocket fire between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.


NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: In the hope of getting American pressure for a cessation of hostilities, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is journeying to Washington later this month to see President Bush, for in the coming months, the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship may be influenced more by power struggles in the two camps than developments between the two camps.

On the Israeli side, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bent on the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the leader of the governing Likud Party. Netanyahu narrowly failed to win a vote in the Likud Central Committee to hold a new election for party leader next April, but Netanyahu continues to be a thorn in Sharon's side. If Netanyahu eventually succeeds in deposing Sharon from the leadership of the right-wing party, the incumbent prime minister would probably try to stay in office, assembling a new coalition of supportive Likudniks along with Labor and perhaps one or more of the fringe parties, but Sharon will probably be weakened in negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership also faces an early trial by ballot. President Abbas has renounced violence in the quest for a Palestinian state, but has so far not managed to win over the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad. An election next January 25th, for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian parliament, will determine how much support he has among the population. In recent municipal elections, Fatah, Abbas' party, and Hamas emerged as the major players. Even while Hamas has been gaining ground against Fatah, Abbas continues to enjoy popular support and, significantly, in opinion polls, 57 percent of Palestinians oppose armed attacks on Israel.

On both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, there appears to be a struggle for legitimacy. On each side, there are hard-liners seeking to wrest control of policy and return to confrontational oppositions. That this drama is being played out, at least for now, by ballot rather than bullet may itself be a hopeful sign. But as we have so often seen, that could change in a minute. This is Daniel Schorr.

HANSEN: It's 22 minutes before the hour.

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