ISSN 2330-717X

External Factors In Hamas-Fatah Deal – OpEd


By Hassan Hanizadeh

The recent deal between Fatah and Hamas in the Egyptian capital, Cairo was the combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors, which brought the two Palestinian factions close to each other.

Fatah, which has been engaged in resistance against Israel for 50 years, has taken two different courses during the period.

The movement was founded in 1959 by the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, alongside a number of leaders from the first generation of the Palestinian resistance movement like Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Salah Khalaf, Khalil al-Wazir, Ahmad Shaqir, Nayef Hawatmeh and Abdul Mohsen Abu Maizar.

Fatah declared its presence in 1965 upon the request of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled the country from 1954 to 1970.

Nasser believed that the occupied Palestinian lands can only be freed through [the Palestinians’] en masse armed struggle. Egypt, hence, furnished Fatah with massive military means.

While campaigning, the Fatah movement established a popular resistance force, named As-Sa’iqa (storm or thunderbolt), as its military wing.

The bulk of Fatah’s political and military forces were concentrated in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Until 1993, when the Fatah movement inked the Oslo Accords with Israel, it consistently considered armed struggle as a goal aimed at liberating Palestine.

It changed armed struggle to political campaigning with the singing of the accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which came under Arafat’s leadership, in 1994.

Arafat’s death on November 11, 2004 weakened PA’s political campaigning as his successor Mahmoud Abbas lacked the charisma required for influencing the course of the peace talks.

The talks held in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, Wye River (Maryland), Camp David, Washington and New York failed due to the extreme stances adopted by the Israeli negotiators.

Abbas, instead of leaning on the Palestinian resistance movements and tapping the internal sources, chose to rely on the United States, regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.

The conflict between the rivaling factions of Hamas and Fatah peaked in 2007 because the PA would not brook Hamas’ partnership in the power structure.

In the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2005, Hamas secured close to 70 percent of 132 seats.

The polls, monitored by the international observers and delegations from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference, showed that Hamas enjoys great domestic popularity.

The outcome of the elections was that Hamas formed its government with Ismail Haniyeh as the leadership. Hamas made the move with its domestic influence and according to the interim Palestinian constitution.

Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, however, has never agreed to recognize Haniyeh’s government and the two sides started to spar.

During Tel Aviv’s 22-day war against people on the Gaza Strip, the PA and the Fatah party sides with the Israeli military instead of assisting the Gazans.

The organization and the faction have become weaker with Fatah’s losing its two patron regimes — Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia.

PA’s potential reconciliation with Israel has hit a deadlock due to stubbornness on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Therefore, Fatah also lost all its domestic leverages.

On the other hand, Hamas, which had lost its ability to carry out operational and political maneuvers due to foreign and domestic pressure, has faced new challenges on the regional arena.

The Hamas movement, which was established in 1987 with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s leadership, laid out its causes based on armed struggle against Israel inside the occupied Palestine.

Organizing the Stone Intifada in 1987 and Al-Aqsa’s Intifada in 2000, which led to bloody confrontations between the Palestinian people and the Israeli regime, constitute part of Hamas’ resistance measures.

With its political headquarters established in Damascus, the Hamas movement has faced a serious challenge as the Syrian government is currently dealing with complicated security problems.

Therefore, the two movements faced serious domestic and regional problems, which paved the way for them to close to each other.

The agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which was signed with the presence of high-ranking regional officials last Wednesday in Cairo, counts as a major step toward resolving the complicated differences between the two movements.

No details about the deal have been revealed so far, but it appears that the Palestinian Authority is set to craft its next cabinet with technocrats and non-factional figures.

This government will have to prepare for general elections within a three-month period so that the future government of Palestine would be formed based on the polls output.

In the first place after the formation of the future Palestinian government, the release of 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and the formation of an independent Palestinian government within the 1967 borders will top the agenda.

Given the international community’s approach to the recognition of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, it seems that Fatah and Hamas will take practical steps in this regard in the future.

It is expected the formation of an independent Palestinian state to be addressed by the United Nations in the first session of the General Assembly meeting in September.

So far, many Latin American countries have expressed willingness to recognize an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds as its capital.

What is certain is that is the Hamas-Fatah agreement — which has infuriated Israeli leaders — remains, the world will witness the formation of an independent Palestinian state.

The formation of the independent Palestinian government can open a new chapter in ending the Middle East’s 60-year-long tensions and pave the way for the return of five million Palestinian refugees.

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