The recent escalation between Hamas and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) induced a significant political outcome in the West Bank and Gaza.
RAMALLAH-The eleven-day military confrontation between Hamas and Israel comes to an end with the ceasefire promoted by Egypt, and accepted internationally, inaugurating what it seems a new phase of relative calm between the two contenders. What started, instead, is a new struggle between the Palestinian factions, with the secularist political party of Fatah and the Islamist movement of Hamas competing for the hearts and minds of people in Gaza and the West Bank.
Jerusalem, political elections, resistance, the shape of a future national state of Palestine, the competition for the leadership within the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the focus of the dispute. Hamas in the past couple of weeks has gained support to the detriment of Palestinian traditional leadership that has ruled since Yasser Arafat, which is now struggling for its very survival.
Decision by Fatah’s leader Abu Mazen to delay the election was a grave mistake. Not supporting the struggle of people in Jerusalem and giving any sympathy to Hamas, a misreading of the political evolution ongoing. Hamas took advance of the current situation, exploiting the widespread dissatisfaction towards Fatah and the PLO and inflicting a definitive blow to the credibility of the leadership in Ramallah. The main goal of the Islamic movement has been for years to be integrated into the PLO, the only organization recognised as representative of Palestine, and be recognised internationally. Negotiations have been extending between the two parties for years.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas dominated Palestinian politics for over a decade. In 2006, during the parliamentary election for the Legislative Council, which has seen Hamas winning over Fatah, an armed conflict broke out between the two factions splitting the political leadership with Hamas ruling in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Ever since, in a harsh and sometimes ruthless exchange, the respective leaderships have kept separated their political goals representing the different souls of the Palestinian resistance.
“PLO must be reformed because it is not representative anymore. What is interesting is the way PLO could change: will it reconcile more with Hamas or Fatah political program?
Recently, Hamas agreed with Fatah for creating a National Unity Government to renew the peace process. In the past, on various occasion, Hamas leaderships have publicly declared its willingness to implement a political project based on a Palestinian state based over 1967 lines, but with no recognition of Israel.
Because of it, Mahmoud Abbas has been dawdling the negotiations for months, sparking a bitter dispute between the hard wing and the pragmatic within the Islamic movement on the effectiveness of talks with Fatah.
The political opportunity given by Israel, with its mismanaging of the popular protest for Al-Aqsa, provides the hard wing with the chance to seize the moment and presenting Hamas as the champion of the resistance. Negotiations are now resuming, supported and accelerated by the vast support the Islamic movement gained during the recent round of military confrontation with Israel. But what does it mean?
“It could be the beginning of a new process for a unity government in which Hamas will play a role in the political process of negotiations with Israel” explained Hamada Jaber, Co-founder and board member at One State Foundation, commenting on the political events of the last turbulent weeks.
This comes while Palestinian activists and academics publicly call for the removal of the Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen from his office. For many, Abu Mazen has become detrimental to the Palestinian cause as it “perpetuates the occupation” and dismisses Israel from its responsibilities in the West Bank. A growing belief within the ranks of Fatah is that the old leader is becoming the biggest obstacle to reaching a new unity between the Palestinians.
“PLO must be reformed because it is not representative anymore. What is interesting is the way PLO could change: will it reconcile more with Hamas or Fatah political program? This is the most important point to focus on,” Jaber stressed out. “Fatah is stuck with its past and doesn’t have enough power to impose its will within the Palestinian factions to inspire a new strategy. This is mainly because it can’t change their approach, on which is based their international legitimacy.”
Al-Fatah movement is also under internal quarrels between the wing led by Mohammed Dahlan, and the side loyal to the current leader. Dahlan is the former leader of Fatah in Gaza and the most bitter enemy of the President of the OLP. Living in exile in Abu Dhabi, many commentators believe he is one of the likely successors for the Presidency.
“There is not politically unity in Ramallah, neither a political program, not even a discussion on the future of a peace process.
In recent months all the competitors running to succeed to Abu Mazen have been trying to enforce their presence and status to prepare for the day he will leave the office. But the leader, instead of trying to reach a compromise for a steady succession, pushed to a repressive campaign against the opposition, particularly on political figures close to Mohammed Dahlan. This comes while the Brigade of Quds martyrs (Fatah) called recently in Ramallah for the reactivation of the brigade,
“There is not politically unity in Ramallah, neither a political program, not even a discussion on the future of a peace process. There is indeed a political vacuum in the establishment and leadership of Fatah that sooner or later may erupt in violence between factions” says Prof. Menachem Klein, Israeli Political Scientist and authors of various books on Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“While we are witnessing Hamas gaining popularity among the Palestinians living in Jerusalem and Israeli-Arab citizens, Abbas lost most of his support and is hardly holding the power even with its traditional fellows and in historical stronghold such as Ramallah,” Prof Klein explains “this is why the situation can’t be ignored anymore and it’s impracticable for Israel not to recognise the void in the Palestinian political arena. Alternatively, there will be chaos.”