Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Fatah and Hamas remain divided

Hope remains elusive that the main Palestinian factions can surmount their divisions. In part, because they have no power to unify on the ground, writes Haitham Ahmed


Fatah and Hamas remain divided
Fatah and Hamas remain divided

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Those who entertained dreams of Palestinian reconciliation through an initiative launched by a group of independent figures, among whom some Hamas members based in the West Bank, were in for disappointment. Although its advocates announced President Mahmoud Abbas had welcomed the initiative and would put it to Hamas, the president voted to implement further punitive measures against Gaza.

Palestinian political analysts described the meeting between Abbas with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah as “positive”, so much so that they believed the meeting would end the Palestinian rift. However, after the meeting some officials affirmed that high hopes had faded and that the two sides had once more plunged into mutual recriminations. They stressed that the Palestinian people have wearied from the ongoing rift and are fed up with how rival factions ignore the people’s right to determine their future and choose their leaders. The people are the missing factor in decisions on this issue.

The recent Al-Aqsa battle embodied the true unity of the Palestinian people, regardless of factional or sectarian allegiances, forcing the Israeli occupation to concede to their demands concerning Al-Aqsa Mosque. Analysts believe both factions are unrealistic. Hamas representative Salah Al-Bardawil, in his initiative, wants Abbas to lift sanctions first, while Mahmoud Al-Zahar refuses to suspend the administrative council that has been ruling Gaza as a de facto government. On the other side, the Palestinian presidency and Fatah insist that the administrative council be abolished first. Intransigence on both sides puts paid to any reconciliation hopes.

Meanwhile, spokesman of the government of national accord Tarek Rashmawi announced that the government would take further punitive steps against Gaza if Hamas refuses to meet Abbas’s demands. “The measures that the government has taken and will take are contingent on Hamas’s response to the initiative of President Abbas,” he said, adding that the government would take all measures appropriate to compel Hamas to respond to Abbas’s initiative.

Aref Abu Jarad, head of the PA Civil Servants’ Syndicate in Gaza, affirmed that a very large number of civilian employees of the PA in Gaza have been pensioned off. The decision was taken by the Finance Ministry, not by the Insurance and Pensions Authority, he said.

Abu Jarad stated: “According to the presidential decree of 22 July 2017, the number of employees put on pension in Gaza reached 6,000. They are from the ministries of health, education, energy, economy, social affairs and include all employees of the Finance Ministry.”

The second deputy of the legislative assembly, Hassan Kharisha, was not surprised at the rapid breakdown of the initiatives. “Up to now, each side has worked to achieve its own interests regardless of the national welfare. Such a situation cannot possibly lead to reconciliation.”

“These initiatives are important,” he continued. “But we cannot trust that they will be implemented unless we hear the voice of approval from a real source in Hamas or Fatah. Until then, initiatives will remain no more than an accumulation of many efforts that result in nothing.”

Kharisha has a theory to explain the sudden surge in initiatives. The recent events in Jerusalem, in which the Palestinian people took the lead over political leaders and parties, led the latter to realise their failure on the ground and engage in a fevered race to save face. He stressed, however, that no reconciliation can occur until the two sides demonstrate a genuine will to recognise the dangers of perpetuating the rift.

Writer Ibrahim Ibrash maintains that the common denominator between the initiatives of President Abbas and Hamas is that each side distrusts the other and questions its legitimacy in proposing a reconciliation initiative. In spite of its misleading statements, Hamas does not recognise the legitimacy of the president as a chief authority and foremost representative of the Palestinian people. “Hamas casts itself as a peer or even something higher than the PLO and its president,” Ibrash said, adding: “Also, both sides are aware of a truth that they dare not admit openly, which is, that the problem has nothing to do with salaries, employees or even political programmes, but rather with the fact that they are too weak to end the rift which would mean reuniting Gaza and the West Bank in the framework of a single authority and government.”

Political analyst Riham Awad held that it would be easy to conclude a reconciliation if intensions were sincere. “If taking the first step involves a question of dignity, then let the two sides take the first steps simultaneously in tandem and before witnesses and satellite television cameras.”

“It is clear that the rift has entrenched itself almost permanently and that it threatens to become a complete separation. The loser is the Palestinian people, the nation and the Palestinian struggle,” she said.

Awad expressed her sorrow that the Palestinian struggle today has descended into a struggle for power and clinging on to narrow partisan gains. “The Palestinian factions are proceeding in a course that a majority of the Palestinian people reject. One would have thought that the greatness that the Palestinian people have just demonstrated during the recent Jerusalem uprising would have influenced the Palestinian leaderships and compelled them to make the necessary concessions in order to meet the aspirations of the people. But what we see is a series that has repeated itself so often that it has grown boring and led to a loss of hope, which is a catastrophe for a people that has always lived on hope.”

As the Palestinian rift persists, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu boasts audaciously about the rapid pace of settlement expansion. No government has done more to expand settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory than his, he crowed as he laid a cornerstone for a new settlement quarter in the Bitar Aliet settlement in the West Bank. As he set into motion the construction of another 1,100 housing units, Netanyahu felt it more important to reassure settlers that his government gave settlement construction the highest priority, regardless of what the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Muslim people, the Security Council, the international community or Western public opinion had to say.

Political analyst Ziad Al-Ayoubi noted that it was clear from Netanyahu’s statements and the actions of his government that he accords no importance whatsoever to opposition to the settlement expansion and that he is bent on.

Al-Ayoubi added that the priority that Netanyahu and his rightwing government accord to settlement construction confirms that he is not interested in peace and in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. He will always work to undermine any negotiations by supporting settlers and increasing the number of settler units in the occupied West Bank, he said.

“Netanyahu does not respond to the call for a two-state solution. But this does not mean that he approves the one state solution. Rather, it signifies that he believes in a single unitary Jewish state which has no room for Palestinians but rather is for Jews only. This is why he continues to implant settlements and to try to expel the Palestinians from their land.”

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