The Bush administration's strategy to bolster Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is "the White House's biggest and potentially riskiest policy departure in its dealings with the Palestinian Authority since it was created in 1994," the Washington Post reported Monday.
It cited intelligence reports that despite a decline in the popularity of Hamas, it still has the backing of 25 percent of PA Arabs and that Abbas cannot totally ignore Gaza. They added that many PA Arabs consider Abbas to be a collaborator for siding with the United States.
At the same time that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was preparing to agree to free Fatah-aligned terrorists and grant amnesty to others not yet arrested, the Post quoted intelligence sources assaying that Abbas may not be able to stop further terrorist attacks against Israel.
"On the one hand, a West Bank-first strategy is a commendable effort to make lemonade out of lemons," Paul Pillar, a former chief Middle East analyst on the National Intelligence Council told the Post. "But it also seems to be an extension of the mistaken belief that sufficient efforts to isolate and pressure Hamas will make Hamas go away. Hamas will not go away."