When Yasser Arafat first returned to Gaza from his exile in Tunisia in 1994, I do not think it ever occurred to him that the day would come when his men would escape from Gaza to Israel. His fear at the time, when he returned with his leaders and Palestinian forces from the Diaspora was that Israel might reoccupy the land they restored and disperse them once again.
Also, I do not believe it ever occurred to President Mahmud Abbas, when he agreed for Hamas participate in national elections, that the day would come when Hamas police would chase his followers and make them seek refuge in Israel or imprisoned in the jails of Gaza, ruled by Hamas.
Yes, there is a power struggle between the two authorities – Fatah and Hamas, but it is a power struggle that has come at a strange time. For, at a time when Hamas is ‘calming’ the battle with Israel, Syria is negotiating with Israel, and Hezbollah is reconciling with the Israelis through the exchange of prisoners and remains of the dead, Hamas ‘s armed forces turned against their own people from Fatah who live marginalized in Gaza.
Hamas is experiencing an internal problem and is trying to export it. Many Hamas leaders of the interior are against the ‘calming’ or the ‘truce’ with Israel, to which Hamas of Damascus has agreed. They are for the continuation of rocket-firing, increasing tension, and military operations against the occupation. This was Hamas ‘s original stand, on the basis of which they joined the movement, believed in its slogans, and rejected Fatah and its leadership. Now, Hamas has become like Fatah; it concluded agreements with the Israelis requiring it to stop the firing of rockets, punish those responsible for firing them, and guard the borders against infiltration of suicide-bombers. This reconciliatory position toward Israel was dictated by the Hamas leadership in Damascus, which has to show courtesy for the hospitality it receives in Damascus, against the wishes of some Hamas leaders in Gaza, who happen to have a different view, as one of them emphasized to me. This difference of views among the Hamas leaders, was regrettably, transformed by some into a campaign against their opponents, who watched Hamas’s retreat from its position and promises with glee, detaining, interrogating, and at times murdering. How could Hamas agree to a truce with Israel and yet fight against its Palestinian citizens from Fatah?
Why does it not first reconcile with itself and with its leadership of the interior, and explain to them that the truce was a political necessity, like those necessities which it used to taunt the Palestinian Authority for responding to them in the way it did? Why does it not then seek reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority, with which it differed on the acceptance of previously signed agreements and honoring their obligations, having itself agreed to a truce with Israel and honored it, and even took measures against those who violated it. As the two organizations have become similar to each other in thinking and conduct, reconciliation between them has become a necessity, and the possibility of working together more likely than ever before.