Thursday, September 21, 2017

Vicious Enmity Among Friends

"This whole issue of dissolving the administrative committee has no value. Even if it is dissolved, there must be another kind of committee that can run the daily and civil lives of people in the Gaza Strip."
"When Hamas said it will dissolve the administrative committee, it threw the ball into the Palestinian Authority's yard, in the sense that they have acquiesced to their demands, so now what will the PA do for Hamas? It's a tit for tat, a barter."
"If Abbas cares about the interests of the Palestinian people, Fatah should announce political elections immediately,"
"However, the one who decides the elections is Israel and the U.S. As long as Israel and the United States cannot find the right person to enter elections and win, then we will remain without any elections." 
"If one hundred agreements were made and Oslo still existed, these agreements will amount to nothing."
"Oslo pitted Palestinians against one another. Those who signed the Oslo Accords knew beforehand that this agreement would result in the bloodshed of fellow Palestinians, at the hands of Palestinians."
Abdulsattar Qassem, political science professor, an-Najah University, Nablus
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (R) and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah meet in Gaza city in 2014 [Reuters]
"Hamas wanted to put the ball in Abbas and Fatah's court before heading to the UN and before meeting Trump so that they remain a key actor in the political equation."
"Abbas and Fatah are expected now to offer something in return."
"Substantial lasting and positive developments can be only realised through an inclusive and participatory political process that neither Fatah nor Hamas are interested in pursuing."
Alaa Tartir, program director, Al-Shabaka Palestinian think-tank,

"What was being asked of Hamas is to completely give up administration of the Strip, which would mean the end of the movement as an organisation and a military movement."
"Based on this, Hamas announced the administrative committee in March … it was Hamas' attempt to create some new negotiating leverage in talks with Fatah."
Belal Shobaki,  Hebron-based political analyst

"These [the issues] include the PA's inability or unwillingness to assume the public burden of Gaza without Hamas relinquishing absolute control, beyond its administrative capacity; Hamas's refusal to soften its grip on Gaza, particularly over security-related issues; and, perhaps most importantly, Israel's systematic and aggressive refusal to allow Palestinian unification."
Aareq Baconi, Hamas expert, policy fellow at Al-Shabaka
A Palestinian man and children walk past graffiti reading "division" in Arabic, in Gaza City, in 2017 [AFP]

Little wonder Israel is none too thrilled of yet another reunification agreement between ruling Fatah represented by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, with its charter stating its reason for existence is the destruction of the State of Israel. Not that Fatah's ambition is any less than that of Hamas; it simply doesn't state it quite as unambiguously; its more circumspect behaviour in appearances at the United Nations to make it appear as though a peace agreement is possible but Israel keeps making it less than possible, belies its at-home incitement to violence and school curricula teaching Palestinian children that the land on which Israel now sits will one day be 'restored' to Palestinians.

Once upon a time the Palestinian Authority made the effort to appear that a democratic-style free election was of interest to them, which they swiftly rued when it became apparent that the result was that Hamas gained huge popular support from the voting public. But the two Palestinian movements, one largely secular the other oppressively religiously orthodox, only have their aspirations to destroy Israel in common, otherwise they detest one another. Hamas amply demonstrated just how much it held Fatah in contempt when it took over Gaza and promptly ousted Fatah, going so far as to toss Fatah members off rooftops.

A vacuum had resulted where Gaza, no longer under the control of the IDF at the orders of then-Israeli President Ariel Sharon who ordered a complete and unilateral evacuation of all Jewish settlers and the Israeli military was left in the hands of the Palestinians. The immediate aftermath was a free-for-all of criminal violence, destruction and threats. Once Hamas moved in it managed to install law and order, taking control of the actions of other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad. But with Gaza restored to the control of Palestinians, Israel began to suffer constant rocket attacks, threats to Israeli border communities. Necessitating several incursions into the Strip by the IDF to quell Hamas violence.

And this is one of the two Palestinian 'authority' groups that Israel should welcome, evidently, according to the interpretations by Palestinian academics who typically ascribe all ills befalling the Palestinian community to the presence of Israel, and not that the presence of Israel -- should it finally be accepted as a Jewish State in the midst of conflicting Muslim states forever at war with one another or within their own states but whom collectively the offensive presence of a state dedicated to the well-being and security of Jews represents an unacceptable foreign incursion -- is a reality.

The shadow government that Hamas put together earlier in the year is to be disbanded. Hamas has bowed to the inevitable; the pressure of sanctions applied strenuously by PA President Mahmoud Abbas stifling the Gaza economy, depriving its people of water and electrical energy, creating misery when he disallowed exit from the Strip for medical attention or family visits, having worked its persuasive magic. In turn, Hamas has invited the PA to "carry out its duties immediately", in Gaza, providing it with all the basic necessities that the West Bank enjoys.

Hamas has been under breaking stress, its relations with Egypt strained after being named a terrorist group there for its links with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (outlawed in Egypt where it originated, but not in the United States where it has managed to infiltrate even the State Department). Its patronage by the Islamic Republic of Iran after strained relations in reaction go the Syrian conflict appears on the cusp of having its funding from that source restored. But the plight of the Gazan Palestinians living under Hamas rule has not been a happy time; civilian populations used as living shields when Hamas deliberately provoked and targeted Israel, among other issues.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, right, travelled to Cairo last week for reconciliation discussions [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Director of Passia, a think-tank located in East Jerusalem stated that Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's political director and the hard-line Yehya Sinwar, the new Hamas prime minister in Gaza, seemed prepared to break the Fatah impasse to create a release valve for the Strip: "Lift the siege, let people breathe. Electricity, water, salaries, medical -- instead of explosion", stated Mahdi Abdul Hadi. It has been a decade of attempted reconciliations, each one a failure, including the last one in 2014 followed by a new conflict between Hamas and Israel.

When Hamas stated in March its intention to create a permanent governing entity in Gaza, Abbas responded by refusing to pay Gaza's electricity bills; accordingly Israel diminished power to four hours daily during an unusually hot summer. Abbas put a stop to paying salaries for government workers in Gaza, including former Gazan prisoners. Medical border crossings for Gazans were denied, and thousands of workers lost their employment. Untreated sewage roiled Gaza, with international aid workers warning of a crisis and Israeli authorities concerned about the potential of an epidemic, or explosion of violence.

This punishing, coercive treatment by the Palestinian Authority at the authorization of Mahmoud Abbas had its desired effect. Even so, while authority is being restored to the PA for Gaza, Hamas will not disarm and in so doing, retains the upper hand militarily in the Strip, irrespective of Abbas sending in security forces, so the potential for a violent clash between the two remains quite a possibility.

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