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Reconciliation by Force - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There was no need to postpone the Goldstone report on the Gaza war in order to postpone a reconciliation accord between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah on the one hand, and Hamas on the other. As one party takes a step forward, the other party takes a step back to avoid reaching a reconciliation accord. Love cannot be forced, and we know there has been no love between the two sides ever since Hamas seized Gaza and expelled PA officials and Fatah from there.

This is a situation that repeats itself. Whenever there is some kind of breakthrough in the negotiations between the two sides that are sponsored by Egypt so that an agreement might be reached, both parties find excuses to distance themselves from such an agreement. They make up pretexts for this such as the issue of detainees for example. Therefore, efforts are wasted and we move from one postponement to another.

The uproar over the Goldstone report on the war crimes committed in Gaza, along with all its repercussions on the Palestinian level, gives rise to numerous questions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was right to form an inquiry committee to examine the postponement and determine where accountability for this lies. If mistakes were made by the Palestinian Authority for which it would be held accountable, then Hamas should also be held to account for its initial hostile reaction to the Goldstone report, unless it is all just a pretext, and this is more than likely.

The size of the gap between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and Fatah was apparent from the speeches delivered by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mishal, both of which were strongly-worded. The Palestinian president accused Hamas of evading reconciliation whilst Mishal wants to rebuild the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and wants better leadership for Fatah. Moreover, he emphasized that no reconciliation could be reached without rearranging the internal Palestinian structure and creating a mechanism for political decision-making.

In light of the aforementioned strong language and the campaign of exchanging accusations between the leaderships of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it seems unlikely that the Egyptian mediator will achieve the result it hoped for this month, even if it is just the signatures of both factions without celebrating. It is apparent that both sides do not want take part in a parade but in a funeral.

The question that needs to be raised is this: is there a real possibility for real reconciliation? Is there an interest for both parties to work together as two political bodies? Are they sincere in cooperating with the Egyptian mediator or is it just a pretence and an opportunity to buy more time and legitimacy?

The signs and the facts highlight the difficulty [in achieving] reconciliation in light of its political cost, especially for Hamas, which rejected Egyptian mediation to bridge the gap from the outset over two years ago, which would have facilitated the opening of the Rafah crossing, even if it meant a semi-formal presence for the Palestinian Authority at the crossing. However, Hamas prefers absolute authority by digging tunnels in order to smuggle motorcycles to those people who suffer all sorts in the Gaza Strip only to issue orders such as banning women from riding behind their husbands on motorcycles, as if there are plenty of other options.

The Palestinian Authority, which was expelled from the Gaza Strip, considers any kind of return to Gaza through an agreement a kind of victory, even if it returns to have much less influence than before. As for Hamas, it was obvious on more than one occasion that it will not give up Gaza voluntarily under any circumstances. In the past, Hamas refused to make people’s lives easier by not accepting the PA having a formal presence at the Rafah crossing. Instead, it preferred the way of life of the tunnel and levied taxes on all goods smuggled this way such as motorcycles for example only to then issue a ban against women riding on motorcycles behind their husbands. The aim is to control in Gaza and Ramallah.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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