Both the Israeli government and the US State Department have expressed resentment at the recent announcement of reconciliation between Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, saying such a deal threatens the peace agreement with Israel.
First, there is no peace agreement to be concerned about; there is only a framework agreement. Second, the reconciliation is not really reconciliation, but simply another maneuver within the Palestinian political camp. Third, Israel, which in public praises Fatah and condemns Hamas, often acts contrary to that.
Barak Ravid, a diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, showcased the hypocrisy of the government, saying: “Netanyahu, who squeezed [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas hard in exchange for freeing 80 pension-age prisoners who had been sitting in Israeli jails for more than 20 years and who broke up negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over the release of 14 Arab Israeli prisoners, was prepared to give Hamas 1,000 young and healthy terrorists, among them Arab Israelis. While Netanyahu refused to allow Abbas any sign of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank, he did not hesitate to recognize Hamas as sovereign in Gaza.”
Hamas does not threaten the Israeli government as much as the Palestinian authority in Ramallah does; Hamas has always been involved in sabotaging the agreements, thus giving Netanyahu the justification to escape all international obligations, citing Hamas’ empty rockets. Hamas is the enemy ally of Tel Aviv, while Ramallah’s government only represents the oppressed partner.
Although the reconciliation agreement is the best thing we have seen for years in Palestine, it is most likely similar to a marriage of celebrities: an extravagant ceremony followed shortly by divorce.
It is normal for Netanyahu’s government not to welcome the reconciliation, as it has worked hard to keep the Palestinians divided.
What is baffling is the US Department of State’s resentment. The reconciliation is in favor of any negotiation project, because Hamas will publicly be agreeing on it, after claiming for many years that negotiations were blasphemous and after threatening to sabotage any negotiation process.
I am afraid that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is just a part of a game of internal conflict, and does not have anything to do with endorsing the negotiations with Israel, or organizing the Palestinian interior.
Hamas is witnessing a leadership brawl and Fatah is busy with its internal conflicts, like the incident when former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan irritated Abbas with his calls for presidential elections. I wish that the Palestinian government in Ramallah was strong enough to put an end to the division and bring Gaza under its authority—especially since Hamas has lost all the friends who were behind its defection from the 2007 Mecca agreement, such as Bashar Al-Assad’s government in Syria, and especially after the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
There are factions within Hamas that really want to return to power, and accept resorting to the Palestinian people to choose the government. But these factions have always been afraid of leaders controlled by Tehran and Damascus. Does this fear still prevail today? I do not think so. The problem is that the Palestinian Authority is weak, drained and close to collapse. Thus it cannot negotiate or commit to any agreement.
The negotiations will force President Abbas to provoke people who will not make any more concessions. If he refuses to comply, he will be penalized by depriving his government of the financial aid coming from Israel and the United States, which are needed to run his government’s affairs.