Will 2019 see an end to the Hamas-Fatah divide?
The media war between the two main rival Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas, has resumed with a vicious tone.
Tensions were sparked by an attack January 4 on the headquarters of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). The head of the PBC and Fatah officials accused Hamas, the de facto ruler of the besieged Gaza enclave, of being behind the attack, during which cameras, editing and broadcast equipment worth nearly $150,000 were destroyed.
Hamas’s Interior Ministry condemned the attack and, after an investigation, alleged that the attackers were former Fatah members whose salaries were cut by the West Bank government led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Fatah withdrew its employees from the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. This could exacerbate the suffering of Gaza’s 2 million people living under crippling Israeli siege for more than 12 years because the Egyptian side asserted that the presence of Palestinian Authority (PA) employees necessary for operation of the border terminal.
The lack of trust has been accumulating. In late December, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian legislative council ahead of parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories within six months.
The announcement was made in a meeting of the Palestinian leadership, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee and Abbas’s Fatah Party’s Central Committee. Hamas, which won a landslide victory in the 2006 elections, rejected the move, describing it as “worthless” and continued regular sessions at the PLC headquarters in Gaza.
The finger pointing towards who started the rift has become the norm because each party accuses the other of being the obstacle stopping the implementation of agreements reached under Arab and regional mediation.
The renewed tensions will affect the security situation on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. Hamas threatened to direct its anger against Israel for halting Qatari money from reaching Gaza. The PA considers the Qatari funds as rescuing Hamas from its crisis and therefore it pressed Israel — an occupying power — to further suffocate and embarrass the rulers of Gaza.
Millions of US dollars have reached Gaza in recent months in suitcases carried by Mohammad al-Imadi, the Qatari ambassador to the PA, who supervises housing projects in Gaza.
There are claims the financial aid aims to blackmail Hamas to stop weekly protests demanding the lifting of the Israeli blockade and the implementation of the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees.
Punitive measures against Gaza would aggravate the economic crisis there. Payment of salaries to thousands of Palestinian civil servants would be suspended.
Hamas and Fatah have failed to end their split since 2007. A lack of trust has aggravated the situation and media incitements continued unabated. Egypt brokered a Palestinian reconciliation deal that provides for Hamas to give up control of Gaza to Abbas but a dispute over power-sharing hindered implementation of the agreement.
Many Palestinians ask why Palestinian brothers are fighting over an incomplete authority under military occupation. Why is the leadership abandoning the Palestinian cause and focusing on solidifying personal power?
It is unknown when Palestinian elections would take place and even whether they would be the solution to more than 12 years of divisions. Would Israel even allow them to take place in Jerusalem?
Good intentions are needed to boost the morale of the Palestinian people, who have been struggling for self-determination while being met with brutal Israeli force. Israeli military incursions are carried out daily across the occupied West Bank not far from Abbas’s office.
Israeli soldiers storm houses and media offices — including the Palestinians’ Wafa news agency — and such acts cannot be prevented by Palestinian security forces due to signed agreements. House demolitions and confiscations of land have become almost daily occurrences.
Palestinian national unity is Israel’s greatest threat and most challenging issue. Palestinians must protect their internal and external fronts and realise that the Israeli policy of divide and rule must end.