Palestine: Hamas And Fatah To Unite After 10-Year Split – OpEd


Unity talks and the deal

It looks a new era has set in the life of Palestinians for their better future as the two political factions — Fatah and Hamas — have decided at long last to come together after 10 long years of fighting that helped the Israel regime to accelerate its military fascism over the besieged Palestinians, killing them in a sustained manner, including children and women mercilessly.

The ruling Palestinian Hamas has strongly backed a plan to begin reconciliation with its rival, Fatah, on October 12 after more than a decade at loggerheads that left the Palestinian territories split between competing leaderships. The deal mediated by Egypt, followed the historic visit by Fatah Palestine’s PM Rami Hamdallah, made to the Gaza Strip on Oct. 2, marking a move toward reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. He made the trip only after Hamas asked the unity government to take control and dissolved its governing administration.

At a brief ceremony at the headquarters of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, which shepherded the negotiations, representatives from Hamas and Fatah kissed and embraced amid a smattering of applause from Egyptian and Palestinian officials gathered around them.

The signing ceremony followed two days of talks mediated by Egypt’s General Intelligence Service. The deal was signed by the deputy leader of Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri, and Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah delegation. Officials from both sides offered frank appraisals of the issues that divide them, and that could easily scupper this latest effort. Ayman Rigib, a Fatah negotiator in Cairo, pointed to the status of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades, with an estimated 20,000 fighters, and Hamas’s extensive tunnels.

The split began when Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006 in Palestine, leading to bloody gun battles on the streets of Gaza when Fatah did not cede power. Elections of Hamas were not approved by the USA and Israel. Since then, Hamas has run the Gaza Strip, while Fatah has administered parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank through the Palestinian Authority.

There have been several abortive attempts at unity over the past 10 years. But after the two sides agreed to form a unity government three years ago, Hamas continued to run Gaza through a shadow government. When leaders from Hamas and Fatah signed the 2011 deal, Abbas said, “We have turned the black page of division forever.” But the agreement quickly foundered amid opposition from Israel, which denounced it as a “victory for terrorism.” That did not hold.

This time, a broad Arab coalition is backing the deal, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “This merger is going to cost a lot of money, and they will help us financially,” said Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, referring to Emirati and Saudi support. “The Egyptians also clearly got a green light from America. They are obviously trying to cook up something to help end this conflict.”

Some Palestinian officials say that the conditions are more conducive to reconciliation. The deal stipulates that a unity government formed in 2014 and led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Egypt’s State Information Service said that the rivals had agreed to hand full control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority by Dec. 1. Palestinian officials said that if the process goes well, Mr. Abbas could visit Gaza in the coming month, his first visit to the embattled coastal strip in a decade.

Egypt has set Nov. 21 for the next step of the process: a meeting in Cairo of all Palestinian factions that, it hopes, will be the start of talks toward a Palestinian unity government. Some Palestinian officials said they hoped such a government could be formed by January. But much depends on how things transpire in Gaza over the coming weeks.

Under terms of the deal, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority will form a joint police force of at least 5,000 officers, and merge their ministries. One Hamas official said they would negotiate to slim down the bloated civil service, cutting up to 40,000 of the 200,000 jobs. Two elements of the deal promise to quickly ease conditions in Gaza, which aid organizations have called an emerging humanitarian crisis.

Abbas’s Fatah party will run the Gaza Strip until a new government is formed before the end of the year. But thorny obstacles blocking past unity bids — including the fate of Hamas’s powerful armed wing — have not yet been discussed.

Officials from both sides described a series of agreed measures that are due to unfold in the coming weeks, and which they say will both sideline However, the Palestinians did not release the text of the agreement, and there was no mention of the thorny issues that remain unresolved, such as the fate of the main Hamas militia if any, or the network of tunnels if any under Gaza used by fighters and weapons smugglers. Hamas from the day-to-day running of Gaza and create a political groundswell for a broader deal to reunite the Palestinian territories.

The deal set a February deadline for merging employees belonging to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza with those of Hamas’ government, Palestinian officials said that the deal paves the way for PLO chief Abbas to visit Gaza for the first time in a decade. A committee will be formed to merge thousands of Palestinian Authority security personnel into Hamas’s police force. The Palestinian Authority has agreed to lift sanctions that it imposed on Gaza this year as part of its effort to pressure Hamas into talks.

Palestinians want the blockades of Israel and Egypt removed once and for all to allow free movement of Palestinians. Sources say that the control of the Palestinian side of the Erez border crossing with Israel will be handed to the Palestinian Authority, while the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt will be ceded to Abbas’s presidential guard. The opening of the Rafah crossing would ease pressure on Palestinians in Gaza, only a tiny percentage of whom receive permission from Israel to leave the enclave for treatment in Israel. While Israel has perpetually closed the blockade for enacting collective punishment on Palestinians, Egypt has only sporadically opened its border in recent years.

The Fatah government harmed the Gaza people; it cut electricity supplies to a few hours a day in Gaza and stopped paying government salaries, an important source of income in a besieged territory with a broken economy. And Hamas will cede control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, Gaza’s main lifeline to the outside world. That would allow Egypt to ease stringent cargo restrictions and enable Gazans to travel outside; perhaps the most significant change in the agreement. But even if the two sides succeed in fully reuniting in the next round of talks, the new arrangement seems unlikely to improve relations with Israel, which has warned that it could not accept a unity government that included Hamas.

Hamas has insisted on its right to maintain control of its defensive arsenal — including thousands of rockets, missiles and drones — as well as its militia and its network of fortified tunnels.

Across divided Palestine there were cautious celebrations. In Gaza City, vendors passed out sweets to children in Soldier’s Square, a park at the center of town. Mona Khfaja, 37, a pharmacist who said she was unable to leave Gaza to seek treatment for kidney disease, said dissatisfaction with the crushing border restrictions had forced warring Palestinian leaders to the negotiation table. “We do not want the flags of Fatah and Hamas, only the Palestinian flag,” she said.

Palestine requires one unified army and one unified police for both territories. Only Palestine authorities should collect taxes for speedy payment for the employees and for other services.

Israel caused split

Of course, the USA-UK imperialist twins are directly responsible the pathetic life and poor fate of the Palestinians who are now treated by Israel as if they were slaves. The USA endorses all criminal operations of Israel inside Palestine and shields attacks on Palestinians and other Arabs by using the UN veto.

Israel behaves big in the Middle East and indirectly threatens people with its nuclear weapons. It is the cause of the Palestinian split and their civil war, killing each other, while the Israeli military also does the same by targeting the besieged people of Palestine as its prerogative.

The USA and Israel have played havoc in the lives of Palestinians by first splitting them into the Fatah-Hamas political factions and then making them fight each other, killing many. When the USA and Israel were talking about two-state solution, they apparently referred to Gaza and the West Bank, and really Israel and Palestine.

Meanwhile, Israeli objections also have the potential to derail unity efforts, if Palestine leaders do not use their brains. Hawkish Israeli PM Netanyahu, seeking to avoid any promise on the establishment of Palestine, said Israel opposes any reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah. The USA-Israel duo wants the divide intact just like Sunni-Shiia split.

Israel keeps increasing its terror infrastructure by adding fresh terror goods got from the USA and select EU nations – but wants the ruling Hamas party to be disarmed and “end its war to destroy Israel.” Netanyahu said reconciliation makes “peace much harder to achieve.”

Israel has just one composite agenda: to kill Palestinians, divide them, make them kill each other, territorial expansionism for building illegal settlements in Palestine. With US backing the Israeli regime has pursed this strategy rather successfully by erecting a terror wall to target the Palestinians through blockades.

In Gaza, hope is dampened by the memory of previous failed negotiation efforts. Hopelessness is harming even normal business. Last month the humanitarian situation was the worst in Gaza that any one has ever known. For restaurant owner Eleina the situation is very bad. He has been forced to pay $8,000 a month for generator fuel to keep his business open. It is an achievement every month to keep his 36 staff members employed, Eleina said. “Everybody is hoping, but we have been disappointed so many times that you don’t want to let yourself have too much hope,” he said.

The USA gives the Palestinian Authority about $400 million in annual assistance — almost less than one third of what Israel gets from USA. But for now, with Hamas ceding all administrative control of Gaza, there is little danger that aid would be cut off.

Existential threat for Palestinians

Israel and USA cry loud that they face an existential threat from Hamas, claiming that this tiny population that is being attacked by Israel could wipe out both the USA and Israel. How is this even possible?

That is the Zionist strategy to show to the world that the Hamas is a serious threat to its existence. Now not even Palestinian children are impressed by that funny slogan.
When the entire Arab world could not defeat Israel, can the defenseless Hamas do anything against the powerful Zionist fascist state backed by USA and allies?

In fact, it is the Palestinians who face an existential threat from US-Israeli fascist designs and have long accused Israel of obstructing reconciliation efforts in order to weaken and divide them.

NATO and UNSC have become a theater of the absurd and instead of preserving history, they jointly distort it. In fact, NATO has even overpowered the UNSC where at least Russia and China, in order at least to protect their own interests, if not to help the world maintain peace and stability in every region, could pose some weak challenge to the US prowess.

Backed by the US veto, Israel enjoys the shield of both NATO and UNSC. Unfortunately, highly educated Americans are unable to make a distinction between an anti-Israeli bias and US prestige and that is reason why USA continues to shield the Zionist crimes as their own.

Fascist agenda of Zionism and Gaza crisis

Israel has completely squeezed the Palestinians, terrorized even children and women. Regular attacks by the Zionist military have caused severe catastrophic situation especially in Gaza Strip.

Women and children fear  the Israeli military could attack them for their blood and land.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas; killing thousands of innocent Palestinians. Israel has interests in easing the Gaza humanitarian crisis, which it sees as a security threat.

Still, Israeli objections may cause the deal to stall before any meaningful pact can be forged. The “so-called reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah is “a convenient cover not for Hamas’ continued existence against Israel, but also for the safety of every Palestinian. Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Abbas’ willingness to partner with Hamas leaders was a “cause for concern” and relinquishing civilian responsibility for the Gaza Strip is a mistake.

Today, Gaza is in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis that has paralyzed daily life for its 2 million inhabitants. Since Hamas took control, Israel has imposed restrictive controls on trade and movement, citing security concerns. But the stranglehold worsened this summer as the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to reduce the electricity supply to Gaza, demanding Hamas pay its share of the cost and leaving Gaza inhabitants with just a few hours of power a day. It also slashed the salaries it pays to government employees. Losing support locally, Hamas has said it is ready to hand over administrative control. Meanwhile, reconciliation is now increasingly in the interest of influential regional players.

As the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas began unity talks on October 10 in Cairo, one detail stood out as emblematic of the challenges they face: The delegation representing Hamas was led by a man who has been accused of plotting to overthrow the president of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. If that awkward hurdle can be overcome, the talks would have at least the potential to end the decade-long, sometimes bloody schism between the two groups and reshape the region’s political map. The effort is being propelled to a great extent by the increasingly desperate humanitarian situation among the two million residents of Gaza. That being said, few here think the two groups will bridge their differences.

 Significance of unity deal

As a historic event, after a decade of hostility and recrimination, the two main Palestinian factions came together in Cairo on October 12 to sign a reconciliation deal that holds out the tantalizing prospect of a united Palestinian front. Hopes for the agreement, signed under the watchful eye of Egyptian intelligence, were tempered by the knowledge that many previous Palestinian initiatives have failed. Yet there is optimism that this time may be different, partly because the stakes are so much higher.

For the two million Palestinians of Gaza, trapped in a tiny coastal strip that is frequently compared to an open-air prison, the Cairo deal offered a potential respite from their lives of dire shortages of electricity and lifesaving medicine, as well as a chance to travel to the outside world. For the Palestinian leadership, it held out the prospect of negotiating with Israel with a single voice, even as it forced the divided territory’s most radical militants to make painful concessions that acknowledged their own failure to advance their cause.

And for PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year-old president of the Palestinian Authority, it could amount to a legacy-saving moment in the twilight years of his rule, after years of abject failure to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. Although he was not in Cairo, Abbas gave his blessing to the deal, which he hailed as a “final agreement.

Interestingly, the USA is also interested in Palestine unity, which it sees as a necessary step to bring about peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. President Trump has pledged to bring the two sides together in the “ultimate deal.”

Observation: Real unity means ending divisions

At the outset the new effort for unity is a positive development in the affairs of destabilized Middle East. Many agreements have been signed in the past, but something has always caused these political parties to back away as USA and Israel somehow force them to collapse the deal and restart the fight and many analysts feel there’s still a chance for that to happen again if Fatah and Hamas are not ready to unite emotionally and with a strong purpose of full sovereignty.

Possibly, Fatah and Hamas have now realized the unless they get united it is impossible to exist on their own lands as Israel, backed by imperialist veto of USA, is now ill-focused on Palestinian children- the future of the nation.

Hamas must put an end to firing of rockets into Israel, allowing the USA to support Israeli demands to demilitarize Palestine. Time is ripe for the Hamas to change its politics that helps Israel get more sympathetic terror goods from USA. In order to be part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main Palestinian umbrella group Hams has to devise a wise policy to align with Abbas, as the PLO may not accept Hamas without it changing its policies, or it might lose its international recognition especially from USA and Israel.

The backer of Zionist crimes in Middle East, the USA has responded to the new unity move in Palestine as positive but very neutral. The US Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said the United States was ‘watching’ the unity developments closely, possibly with alarm, but he said that any Palestinian government must “unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreement and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

In effect, what the USA expects from the Palestinians is total obedience and complete surrender to Zionism. Israel and the USA want a non-military Palestine so that Palestinians could be regularly attacked by Israel with US terror goods.

Another Palestinian concern is that a unity government involving Hamas could cause the Trump government to cut funding to the Palestinian territories under congressional rules against funding terrorist organizations. American lawmakers use the aid as a bully and threaten to cut funding in reaction to a similar 2011 deal between Hamas, which the United States designates as a terrorist organization, and the Palestinian Authority. That agreement ultimately fell apart.

Egypt, which is attempting to stamp out an insurgency in its Sinai Peninsula by militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has accused Hamas of aiding the militants, allowing them to cross the border for medical treatment. Through the deal, Egypt can pressure Hamas to safeguard Egyptian security in Sinai
Cairo also has interests in drawing Hamas away from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has faced brutal crackdowns in Egypt since the ouster of Egypt’s first ever elected president and Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are working in partnership with Egypt to squeeze the Brotherhood and curb the influence of their regional rivals Qatar and Turkey in Gaza

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the media have been increasingly calling on Abbas to travel to Gaza and lift the sanctions that he imposed in early April to pressure Hamas into relinquishing control over the territory. The visit paid by the Ramallah-based ministers of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including PM Rami Hamdallah, to Gaza on Oct. 2 gave Gaza residents hope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would also pay Gaza a visit amid western/Israeli media reports that he would take such a step once the PA is in full control there. Abbas was last in Gaza in May 2007, shortly before Hamas seized full control of the enclave in June 2007.

Of course, neither the US nor Israel can now stop Palestine from becoming a sovereign nation that would forge strong alliances with both the Arab world and Iran and would be strongly backed by Turkey.

Time has run out for these two capitalist nations to revise their policy for the Middle East and become normal democratic states in modern times. Old tactics of fake threats won’t work in future in West Asia.

Palestinians should know that Israel and the USA could once again intervene to disrupt the unity move in Palestine and thus the factions must be watchful to sustain the unity forever.

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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