The Americans and Europeans have poured billions of dollars on the Palestinian Authority in the past three years with the hope of "empowering the moderates and undermining the radicals" among the Palestinians.

The move came in the aftermath of Hamas's rise to power in the January 2006 parliamentary election and its subsequent takeover of the entire Gaza Strip a year later.

The hope in Washington and a number of European capitals was that the money invested in West Bank areas that are under the control of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority would dissuade the Palestinians from supporting Hamas.

But this week the international community was once again reminded that the policy of financing moderates with the goal of undermining radicals is no longer relevant in this part of the world.

The latest public opinion polls published in the West Bank and Gaza Strip show that Hamas's popularity has sharply increased despite the transfer of funds to Mahmoud Abbas's authority.

According to the polls, a majority of Palestinians prefer Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over Abbas and would vote for him if elections were held these days in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

How come the billions of dollars haven't persuaded the Palestinians that Fatah is better than Hamas?

And how is it that a majority of Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite the miseries and disasters that the Islamic movement has brought on them?

There are several reasons why Hamas's popularity is on the rise.

The first reason is the anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media in particular and the Arab media in general, as well as in the mosques and educational institutions. This is in addition to the fiery rhetoric of Palestinian spokesmen - from both Fatah and Hamas.

The money coming mostly from the Americans and Europeans cannot have a moderating effect on the Palestinians when they are being told, on a daily basis, that Israel is evil, does not want peace and should not be allowed to exist in the Middle East.

The second reason why a majority of Palestinians continue to back Hamas can be attributed to the fact that they do not see Fatah as a viable alternative.

Fatah lost the 2006 election largely because of its leaders' financial corruption and incompetence. Since then, it has failed to implement real reforms or get rid of former Yasser Arafat cronies and icons of financial corruption and mismanagement.

Nor has Fatah drawn the conclusions from its expulsion from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Fatah should have embarked on a soul-searching process to find out why its men ran away from the Gaza Strip in 2007, handing the area to Hamas. No one in Fatah has paid a price for this blunder.

Fatah leaders have been so busy squabbling with each other that they cannot even agree on a date to hold the internal elections that may pave the way for the emergence of a new leadership. The last time Fatah held such elections was 20 years ago.

Why should any Palestinian vote again for the same Fatah people whom he voted out three years ago if they have not changed or learned from their mistakes?

The third reason for Hamas's growing popularity is the Americans' public support for Fatah. The more the Americans and Israelis embrace Fatah, the more they discredit the faction in the eyes of many Palestinians.

As far as many Palestinians are concerned, the Americans are not honest brokers because, they argue, the US remains completely biased in favor of Israel.

US meddling in Palestinian affairs is the fourth reason behind Hamas's increased popularity. The biggest mistake that the Americans made after Hamas won the 2006 election was to go the Fatah people who lost the vote and give them money and weapons so that they could bring down the Hamas regime.

For nearly 18 months, Fatah, backed by the US and other European countries, tried to undermine the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. These attempts served as a boomerang, further boosting Hamas's standing. In the end, not only did Fatah fail, but it was kicked out of the Gaza Strip.

Many Palestinians continue to sympathize with Hamas because they see the movement as a victim of a US-led conspiracy to bring down a democratically-elected government. For these Palestinians, the last war in the Gaza Strip was launched in the context of this conspiracy and not in response to the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel.

Finally, the latest efforts by Fatah to form a joint government with Hamas are seen by many Palestinians as evidence that the Islamic movement is a legitimate and important player in the region. The way these Palestinians see it is that Fatah and its leaders are now begging Hamas to accept the idea of a unity government after having failed to get rid of the movement or undermine its power.

If anything, the results of the public opinion polls show that, more than 15 years after the beginning of the peace process between Israel and the PLO, there is still a majority of Palestinians who support Hamas and its radical ideology. The results also show that a majority of Palestinians are still not prepared to make far-reaching concessions for the sake of a peace treaty with Israel.

The notion that economic prosperity and "bribes" can buy moderation has again proved to be untrue. American and European money will never turn the Palestinians into Israel-lovers. The change has to come from the Palestinians themselves. Ironically, with the help of the American and European funding, the Palestinians have raised an entire generation on the glorification of suicide bombers and hatred for Israel and Western values.

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