I puzzled for a while over the name for this posting. For I might just as easily have referred to PA hysteria, or hate, or delirium. All apply.
Dr. Moti Kedar, in his recent op-ed “The Palestinian Civil War,” provides a translation of an article by one Ra’afat Mara that appeared on a Hamas website in early January. Wrote Mara:
“Anyone observing Mahmoud Abbas (pictured) becomes aware of the evil impulses he harbors inside him, of how he is an extremist who thinks in terms of settling scores, is ruled by a tendency to take revenge and does not mind causing injury to every Palestinian as long as he can spew poisonous hatred in every direction.”
While I have absolutely no reason to think this is not all true and more, and while many of Abbas’s rivals in Fatah would probably agree, we must consider that this was written by a member of Hamas: It reflects the division between the PLO and Hamas.
Kedar says (emphasis added):
“In the final analysis, the split between the PLO and Hamas, Ramallah and Gaza, Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, is not a controversy, but a deep chasm. And it is permanent. The reality is one of two cultural patterns, two entities, two agendas, and the world does not contain a bridge long enough to connect the worldviews and behavior of the two sides.
“The old and unanswered question lurks behind the scenes, awaiting a definitive response: Is there really a ‘Palestinian nation?’ And the answer is in the negative. In the Middle East there are no nations, only tribes and the tribes living in Judea and Samaria are not the same as those living in the Gaza Strip. This is the incontrovertible sociological fact behind the political split between the PLO and Hamas.”
I hasten to clarify that when Kedar, an Israeli academic and a staunch Zionist, says there are no nations in the Middle East, he is referring only to the Arabs and not remotely to Israel. It is a primary thesis of his, founded on a solid sociological understanding of the area, that Arab tensions can be resolved only when separate clans or tribes, operate in homogenous groupings. The conflict in Syria, as well as other ME states, is a reflection of this situation.
For those who follow interactions between Hamas and the PLO, Kedar’s conclusion should be no surprise.
Hamas and the PLO have never acted in a single-minded fashion to solidify national interests of the “Palestinian people,” but, rather, have sought to advance their own interests and ideologies. All attempts to form a “unity government” have failed within short intervals.
In 2007, Hamas violently took over Gaza. In Judea and Samaria, PA forces, understanding full well that Hamas is eager to also overthrow them there, routinely go after Hamas “operatives,” with the substantial assistance of Israel.
There was a time, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords, when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas had a cooperative working agreement. Sort of a good cop/bad cop routine, with, if you can imagine it, Yasser Arafat as the good cop: Me? I have nothing to do with terrorism. Hamas would continue the “struggle” against Israel, operating everywhere except in Area A, under PA security control, while the PA would not act against Hamas elsewhere. Arafat was set on advancing his diplomatic legitimacy and the roles of the two groups briefly complemented each other.
But those days are long gone, as conflicting ideologies and intense rivalries interfered:
Elections for the PA legislature ‒ the Palestinian Legislative Council, PLC ‒ were last held in 2006, prior to theHH
coup in Gaza, when the PA was in control there as well as in areas of Judea and Samaria.
Hamas – startling the PA – won those elections; Ismail Haniyeh (pictured, today a senior leader of Hamas in Gaza) assumed the position of prime minister and formed a unity government.
However, that government was short-lived as the coup rendered the PLC moribund. The full PLC with a quorum has not met since Hamas drove Fatah from Gaza.
Abbas, who had succeeded the deceased Arafat as president, dismissed the government that had been established following the elections. Hamas, however, operating from Gaza, refused to accept this and maintained that it represented the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas, with a bit of finagling, appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister, recognized by the Palestinian Authority.
In 2013, Abbas appointed Rami Hamdallah (pictured) – an academic and political independent with Fatah connections ‒ to succeed Fayyad.
It is not necessary to describe details of his term in office. I will mention, however, that he protested Abbas’s assumption that he would serve merely as a figurehead with Abbas pulling the strings. And that, last year, when on an official visit to Gaza, he survived an assassination attempt (which Hamas subsequently claimed had been masterminded by people from the PA).
All of this is of significance now because in December, Abbas announced that he had dissolved the PLC and that within six months there would be legislative elections.
The likelihood of this actually happening is very slim: each side says it cannot campaign fairly in the territory of the other. In fact, Hamas says Abbas cannot dissolve the PLC when it maintains a majority within that (non-functioning) body.
There are some platitudes coming from PA officials as to this being a new start towards a better relationship with Hamas. Nonsense. This is one more action by Abbas intended to cut off Hamas.
He has already tried a number of approaches in order to push Hamas to turn Gaza over to the PA. Failing in all of them, he intends to cut off that faction, moving ahead without it, exclusively in the territory under PA control. This in a sense would be a formalization of the rift that has existed de facto.
According to Azzam al-Ahmad, head of Fatah’s Central Committee (emphasis added):
“We plan to form a new government of factions soon in response to Hamas’s failure to undertake its national responsibility in handing over the Gaza Strip to the legitimate PA. Hamas helped form the last government. This time, it will not participate in its formation or be a part of it.”
Prime Minister Hamdallah, along with the other ministers of his government, tendered their resignations earlier this week; they were accepted by Abbas, who requested they stay on until the new government is in place. Theoretically, this would be in preparation for elections. That is what is being said. But my assumption is that the new government, established with only PLO factions, will be put in place and that will be that.
It is a while since I have used the Hebrew term balagan, which means a state of confusion.
It so perfectly describes this situation.
And with this all, I have not even mentioned the fact that when Abbas, who is both old and in ill health, is gone from the scene, the in-fighting among his potential successors will be fierce.
But that is for another day.
With regard to Hamas in Gaza we see a situation that is surreal:
Hamas is hurting because Iran, which is in dire economic straits, cannot provide the largesse it once did. I have written about the Qatari funds that had been brought into Gaza with the consent of Israel, ostensibly to provide salaries to civil servants cut off by the PA. Abbas has been trying to make the situation worse; this move was supposed to forestall violence. For two consecutive months, sums of $15 million were brought in.
The third installment, due in January, was held up by Israel because there had been violence at the Gaza border and an IDF soldier had been wounded. There was a tacit understanding from the Israeli side that allowing the money in was supposed to bring quiet, and this was not happening.
But our government, which took a stand briefly, did not stay strong for long. On January 23, the Security Cabinet recommended that the money be allowed in to calm tensions. Netanyahu agreed.
According to Israel National News, it was also said that Hamas had “refrained from creating provocations against Israel in recent days.”
What? A handful of days was deemed sufficient?
But then, something astonishing happened: Hamas refused the money.
Reportedly, senior Hamas officials met with the envoy from Qatar and told him, “We will not turn Gaza into an area for managing elections in Israel.” They did not intend to be used, and would not be bought. What they did intend, is to continue the “resistance” against the “occupation.”
The way this was resolved, at least for now, was via a new method of transferring money being used by Qatar. It will no longer go through Hamas, and will no longer be used to pay civil servants. (Some of whom were high Hamas officials – which fostered resentment.) Instead money will be distributed directly to needy poor. How it is determined who receives is unclear. I find it very difficult to believe that Hamas does not have a hand in it somehow, but now they have “deniability.” Distribution is at sites such as post offices. Here, in a post office in Gaza City:
Last Saturday and Sunday, Qatar brought in $9.4 million to be distributed in allocations of $100 to 94,000 people. I believe this is scheduled to happen three more times.
Please note, however, what Mohammed Al-Emadi, the Qatari ambassador to Gaza, said (emphasis added):
“It was interpreted and exploited by some parties that [Qatar’s monthly payments to Gaza] is ‘calm in return for dollars’ and that it was in order to break the will of the Palestinian people and cast doubt on their nationalism and the nationalism of the resistance factions. And that is not correct.”
As we head towards Shabbat, a light-hearted good news piece:
As the white rhinoceros is near extinction, Israel is part of a consortium of nations working to save these animals. Thus the birth on January 21, of a rhino in the Safari park in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, was a cause for celebration. Of the 78 zoos participating, Israel’s white rhinoceros herd is the largest.
The rhinoceros is not a handsome animal by conventional standards, but this feisty new born female calf, who weighed in at about 100 pounds, somehow manages to be very cute.
See a video here:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.