Hamas runs the wing of the Palestinian Authority besieged and isolated in the Gaza Strip, while Fatah, with full support from the United States, the European Union, Israel and Arab regimes, runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Its terms include forming a “national unity government” headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas within five weeks and elections in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank within six months.
Not so fast
“This is the good news we tell our people: the era of division is over,” Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-run wing of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, said at the press conference announcing the deal.
The excitement with which many Palestinians have greeted the deal reflects real public frustration with the long-running division and yearning for a truly national leadership.
But Haniyeh’s declaration is more than a little premature. This “reconciliation” is not going to be any more successful than previous deals signed in Cairo in 2011, in Doha in 2012 and again in Cairo in 2012.
The reasons are straightforward: the differences between Fatah and Hamas are fundamental and have not changed.
Hamas, although it is currently observing a November 2012 ceasefire it negotiated with Israel, remains committed to military resistance. Abbas remains committed to active collaboration – politely termed “security coordination” – aimed at dismantling all Palestinian capacity for military resistance to Israel.
There is no middle ground between these positions and no trust on the ground between the US-supervised, Abbas-run security forces and Hamas’ own police and military forces.
Good relations with occupation
Just yesterday the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Abbas reaffirmed that “as far as he was concerned the security coordination with Israel would continue as long as he remains in office.”
“It is a duty, not a choice,” Abbas said. “Even when there was no negotiation we continued the security coordination in order to prevent bloodshed and chaos. Our relationship with the [Israeli] military and security ranks is good, and we are interested in maintaining it.”
Following the last West Bank-Gaza elections in 2006, Abbas’ authority conspired with Israel, Egypt and the United States to undermine the national unity government of the time. The US-backed coup plot led to a brief and bloody Palestinian civil war and the current political division between the West Bank and Gaza.
Abbas: Israel’s unshakable ally
Abbas has remained one of Israel’s most formidable allies in its war against resistance in general and Hamas in particular. Israel gave Abbas advance warning of its 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. Yet Abbas did nothing to warn Palestinians and spare the lives of the 1,400 mostly civilians Israel killed.
Abbas associates have consistently pressed for Israel’s devastating siege on Gaza to be tightened.
In 2011 alone, according to Israeli sources, Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority held 764 “joint security meetings” aimed at preventing Palestinian resistance to the occupation.
And as recently as 2012, Abbas publicly begged Israel for weapons which he said he would he would use to ensure Israel’s “security.”
The Abbas-run Palestinian Authority plays precisely the same role as the collaborationist “South Lebanon Army” Israel armed and financed during its 22-year-long occupation of southern Lebanon.
It is simply absurd to imagine a “national unity government” in which one party supports armed resistance and the other side remains fully committed to serving as the Israeli occupation’s native enforcers.
Doomed to fail
It took only hours for Israel and its sponsor the United States to announce their opposition to the latest reconciliation deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would convene his “security cabinet” to discuss the matter, and declared that Abbas could choose between “peace” with Israel or peace with Hamas, but not both.
The US State Department announced – laughably – that the deal could “complicate” nonexistent peace efforts.
The bottom line is this: the Abbas-run PA exists and functions solely at the discretion of Israel and the United States. Israel will not allow a “reconciliation” or elections to proceed if it deems otherwise.
Abbas is permitted no room for maneuver by his handlers. The US recently warned him sternly against dissolving the Palestinian Authority, and now it is once again objecting to reconciliation. Israel and the US want the Palestinian Authority to remain precisely as it is, capable only of serving Israel’s needs.
So why sign the deal?
If there’s no chance of success, why would Hamas and Fatah sign yet another reconciliation deal? For Hamas, it is a move of desperation, isolated as it is in Gaza by the Israeli siege and the US-supported Egyptian coup regime.
For Abbas it is a win-win. He is using Hamas to get back at the US and Israel over the failed negotiations, much the same way as his recent signing of a number of UN treaties. At the same time he knows the deal will go nowhere because Israel and the US will not allow it.
But by signing (another) reconciliation he boosts his own position, washes away his own complicity in Israel’s crimes and – with the blessing of Hamas – cements his image as a legitimate “national leader.”
Palestinians should make no mistake: any reconciliation that leaves a collaborationist PA regime still functioning as Israel’s enforcer can never produce the united leadership capable of standing up to Israel that they yearn for.
While it may serve the short-term political interests of factions, such a deal would only further compromise the rights of the Palestinian people and damage their struggle for liberation.