Without a knockout punch, this ‘war’ will continue as Israel waits an eventual victor. There can be no realistic peace overture until Palestine civil war ends.
By David E. Kaplan
Israel will go to elections in April 2019 and a major issue will be the Peace Process. Within this perennial debate will be the much trumpeted ‘Two State Solution’, supported by a majority of Israelis, with the proviso “if we have a partner to negotiate with.”
Commentators and world leaders around the world frequently chastise Israeli leaders that this proviso is baseless and “a ruse to avoid negotiating.”
You have a partner they counsel like a school master, and his name is Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.
If Israel is to negotiate it must do so with the duly elected leader of the Palestinian people otherwise the agreement would be worthless. Lacking the support of a majority of the electorate, any peace agreement could be jettisoned by the next Dictator-in-Chief.
After 2000 years of exile and repeated fatal failures in reading shifting political landscapes, the Jews of Israel are reluctant to take existential risks.
It is not a Left or Right issue – it is an existential issue.
With Palestinian elections last held in 2006 and repeatedly delayed with one excuse after another, Abbas prefers remaining permanently at the helm than rolling the dice with democracy and losing to his rival Hamas as the polls predict.
So, with his faction Fatah in an open-ended war with Hamas who is there for Israel to negotiate?
The Palestinian national movement may by the end of 2018 have reached the lowest ebb in its history.
Look what has transpired between Christmas and New Year regarding Israel’s “partner for peace” in the West Bank and his arch-rival in Gaza.
For more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinian movement has been split into two increasingly irreconcilable ideological factions – Fatah and Hamas – entrenched further by the geographic split of the West Bank and Gaza.
While tensions between Fatah and Hamas are always at boiling point, 2018 was a year that the two rivals were at each other’s throats – literally.
Gloves Were Off
There was little of the Christmas spirit when antagonism between the two factions culminated in the last week of 2018, with Fatah accusing Hamas of detaining 500 of its men in the Gaza Strip.
The gloves were off – as always!
During the non-democratic takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, a number of Fatah officials were sent to their grizzly deaths in public by being thrown off high-rise apartment buildings. The message was clear: Hamas was demonstrating its brand of political discourse.
The relationship has hardly improved but, in an effort, to reach some semblance of unity – a representative leadership that Israel could hopefully negotiate with – in March 2018, the prime minister of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority Rami Hamdallah, bravely visited Gaza – to attempt a reconciliation.
He did not get very far – neither politically nor physically!
No sooner had his motorcade left the Israel border crossing and entered Gaza, a roadside bomb exploded alongside the convoy.
Hamdallah luckily escaped without a wound. Not so lucky was the relationship between Fatah and Hamas – it exposed ‘wounds’ that seem to be resistant to healing.
Which begs the question, how is Israel expected to reach an agreement with Palestinian leaders when these same leaders are unable to reach agreements between themselves and are quite happy to kill each other in the process?
It became quite farcical when following Fatah accusing Hamas for the attempted assassination of its Prime Minister, Hamas counter-punched by claiming that the PA bombed its own prime minister to ‘kill reconciliation’.
This would be a comedy if the plot was not so tragic.
In this ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ of Palestinian politics, the most essential qualification for a family-man aspiring to be a politician, is a life insurance policy!
Animosity over Anniversaries
Fast forward from March 2018 to December 2018, why were 500 PA supporters in Gaza arrested?
Depends who you ask.
According to a Fatah spokesman, the arrests were aimed to prevent “our supporters from celebrating the 54th anniversary” of the launching of its first attack against Israel.
“Our sons have been arrested by Hamas because of celebrating this anniversary,” said Atef Abu Seif, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, he added, was “kidnapping Fatah men from the streets, raiding their homes and confiscating posters and other material that were supposed to be used during our rallies.”
Abu Seif further accused Hamas of torturing some of the detainees.
This followed the PA security forces earlier using force to disperse Hamas supporters who took to the streets of Hebron and Nablus to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
This tit for tat culminated with the Hamas crackdown in Gaza enraging Fatah leaders in Ramallah. President Mahmoud Abbas – who also serves as chairman of Fatah – denounced Hamas going so far as to incredulously accuse it of working for Israel.
“Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.”
Abbas used the Arabic word ‘jasous’ when he talked about the “spies.” Palestinians often use the word to label those who collaborate with or serve as informants of Israel.
So Hamas, whose sole aim is the destruction of Israel and whom only two months earlier were responsible for firing 500 missiles at civilian areas in Israel are, according to the Fatah leader “spying” for Israel?
Can anyone make any ‘sense’ of this?
Senseless in Gaza
Well this accusation made no sense even to Hamas which responded by hinting that the 83-year-old Abbas was “senile” and “talking nonsense”.
“Abbas’s speech is trivial,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “The real spy is not the Gaza Strip, which has dazed the occupation – rather, it’s the man who was described by Yasser Arafat as the Karzai of Palestine.”
The Hamas spokesman was referring to Hamid Karzai, who became Afghanistan’s head of state in 2001 after the Taliban government was overthrown and was regularly referred to by Arabs and Muslims as a puppet in the hands of the USA.
So now it is suggested by Hamas that Abbas is an American stooge, the same ‘stooge’ that is refusing to accept the USA as a mediator ridiculing the administrations peacemaking efforts calling it a continuation of the Balfour Declaration “conspiracy.”
As if articulating in an alternate universe, Abbas only a month before, proclaimed on the 14th anniversary of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death that “Our national unity is the most precious thing we have.”
What unity was he referring to?
The PA President pressed on:
“Unity is our strongest weapon to face the plans for liquidation and conspiracies that are being waged against our national cause.”
Clearly his words found no traction with Hamas who continued calling him a “dictator”, “senile”, “mentally unstable”, “traitor”, “collaborator” and “liar”.
Hamas has also denied Fatah’s claim that it had detained 500 of its men but admitted that it had “summoned” 38 senior Fatah men only “for questioning to maintain calm and order.”
Fatah was not buying this.
An official response from the West Bank indicated that there’s was no chance that the two parties “could ever resolve their differences.”
This was only three weeks after BDS in South Africa welcomed in December 2018, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between a visiting Hamas delegation from Gaza and an ANC parliamentary caucus in Cape Town, calling it “a success for Palestine solidarity”.
Even Egyptian officials have admitted that they have given up on their repeated attempts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.
“That’s it: There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” said Hussein al-Shiekh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank. “We have notified Egypt and Qatar that their efforts to achieve have reached a dead end.”
Maybe South Africa should be notified as well!
Judging from the actions and words of Fatah and Hamas, it now seems that the chances of ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are virtually zero.
The question for Israel is if Hamas calls the President of the Palestinian people, Mahmoud Abbas a “dictator”, “senile”, “mentally unstable”, “traitor”, “collaborator” and “liar”, and Abbas says that Hamas “will end up in the dustbin of history”, who is Israel expected to be realistically talking to in its quest for peace?