Palestinian unity and the war

Monjed Jadou, Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

Calls for national unity are growing louder as the Palestinians continue to confront the ongoing Israeli aggression against Gaza, writes Monjed Jadou in Ramallah.

Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. Photo: AP


The Occupied Palestinian Territories are witnessing escalating tensions between the Fatah and Hamas Movements, which govern the two halves of the Palestinian homeland – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

However, these bodies still hold only nominal power, as the real power lies with the Israeli occupation, which controls all aspects of Palestinian life.

Amidst the genocidal war inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinian people, tensions between Fatah and Hamas are rising, driven by different goals and motives. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a game with both parties, leveraging the formation of a new Palestinian government and the possible end of the war on Gaza to manipulate the situation.

These headlines carry the sparks of internal escalation, manipulated by Netanyahu and his supporters and aiming not for genuine governance but rather to sow internal conflicts that absolve Israel of future obligations.

In recent days, Hamas, classified as a terrorist organisation by the US and other nations along with “other Palestinian factions,” condemned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ appointment of close economic adviser Mohamed Mustafa as Palestinian prime minister.

Hamas leader Osama Hamdan accused Fatah of contributing to the aggression against the Palestinian people, highlighting the ongoing Israeli bombings, destruction, and killing of Palestinians, while Fatah’s statement seemingly aligned with the occupation’s narrative against resistance.

“Anyone who wishes to speak about resistance must carefully consider the consequences of doing so and not find themselves within the occupation’s camp,” Hamdan said.

He pointed out that Hamas’ reservations about the formation of the new government in Ramallah stem from the existence of a national path to manage Palestinian national affairs. He said that Hamas’ reaction stemmed from the belief that the move deviates from this path and expressed astonishment at Fatah’s refusal to seek its opinion.

In a strongly worded statement directed against Hamas, Fatah accused its rival of “causing Israel to reoccupy the Gaza Strip” through its “adventure” of attacking Israel on 7 October last year.

It harshly criticised Hamas, saying that those responsible for Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza and the catastrophe facing the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, have no right to dictate national priorities.

It said that the leadership of Hamas was “detached from reality” and the Palestinian people and that Hamas had yet to grasp the “magnitude of the catastrophe afflicting our oppressed people in Gaza” and the rest of the Palestinian Territories.

Fatah expressed its dismay at Hamas’ claims of uniqueness, asking whether Hamas had consulted with the Palestinian leadership or any Palestinian national party before embarking on its 7 October attacks, which had led to a “more catastrophic and brutal disaster” than the 1948 Nakba.

It accused Hamas of negotiating with Israel and making concession after concession, with no goal other than to secure guarantees for its leadership. It said Hamas was attempting to strike a deal with Netanyahu to maintain its “divisive role” in Gaza and Palestinian affairs.

Fatah called on Hamas’ leadership to halt its policy, which it said was influenced by external agendas, and return to the national ranks to stop the war, save the Palestinian people, rebuild Gaza, and ultimately help to achieve a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.

Tayseer Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said that the protests of some of the Palestinian factions and the accusations of unilateralism directed against Fatah were “an attempt to stir up turmoil within the Palestinian arena”.

Hamas had not joined the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he said, and would need to be committed to its programme to be part of the Palestinian government.

Nasrallah added during an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly that the current disarray was one form of obstructing the path of the upcoming government. He said that Abbas could appoint any figure he deems suitable as Palestinian prime minister owing to his position as head of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

There was a legal time limit for the appointment after the resignation of the former government of Mohamed Shtayyeh, he said.

Nasrallah said that dealing with the new government should be a matter for all Palestinians, and this step should not be seen as a setback after the earlier meeting of the factions in Moscow and what was agreed there in a final statement.

Nasrallah said that this was included in the letter of appointment from the president to Mohamed Mustafa and was within the terms of the agreement made in Moscow.

International satisfaction with the appointment of the new government would spare the Palestinian people, he said, including economic suffering. It was important that international support be reflected in measures on the ground, such as providing financial resources to overcome the current crisis, he added.

Commenting on this situation to the Weekly, Wassel Abu Yousef, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, expressed his regret over the verbal sparring between some of the Palestinian factions amid the genocidal war perpetrated by the occupation against the Palestinian people.

He condemned the massacres carried out by the Israeli army, the destruction in Gaza, and all the crimes and violations in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, not to mention the continuous assaults on Palestinians by Israeli settlers.

Abu Yousef emphasised the need for national unity to end the division between the two halves of the homeland. He pointed to the meeting of the factions in Moscow at the end of February and the positive potential of the statement issuing from it.

Some of the factions had objected to Abbas’ appointment of Mohamed Mustafa as the new prime minister, citing a lack of consultation. However, he said that the action was in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law, which grants the president the authority to appoint or dismiss the government.

The appointment of Mustafa’s government was a step towards national unity, Abu Yousef said, adding that its mandate includes responsibilities such as overseeing all the Palestinian territories, unifying institutions, and reconstructing Gaza.

Mohamed Al-Taj, a member of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian Liberation Front, stressed the necessity of forming a government that would inspire the people amid the challenges of political and economic instability. He emphasised the importance of consensus during the genocidal war carried out by Israel against Gaza.

Al-Taj said that the new government was crucial in breaking the siege imposed on all the Palestinians. The formation of a new government capable of shouldering responsibility would ultimately lead the people to safety, he added.

There was a need for genuine national dialogue prioritising national interests over partisan agendas in order to cement unity, Al-Taj said, calling on the Palestinian people “to reclaim their destiny.”

Political analyst Akram Atallah Alayasa said that Netanyahu from the outset of the genocidal war on Gaza and the ethnic cleansing campaign in the West Bank through settlement expansion and the isolation of the Palestinian Territories had rejected any political solutions with the Palestinian parties, be they Fatah or Hamas.

This was evident in his refusal for Fatah and the PA to participate in governing Gaza post-war because, from the Israeli perspective, there was no distinction between Fatah and Hamas, Alayasa said.

This view has been increasingly made clear for years, and it rejects any political settlement with the Palestinian people leading to the establishment of an independent state.

There are political factions in Israel seeking to relieve themselves of the responsibility for Gaza by transferring it to Palestinian entities without a political settlement, he said, citing leaked information from Israeli security or military leaders or left-wing Zionists like Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz discussing the possibility of handing over certain responsibilities to Palestinian political and security officials following the war.

These leaks, whether accurate or exaggerated, aim to fragment Palestinian society, Alayasa said. He noted that the resurgence of internal conflicts during the war, exacerbated by statements from PA officials initially critical of Hamas, like Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, and Hussein Al-Sheikh.

Al-Sheikh had later retracted his statements, he said, while Osama Hamdan had criticised Fatah officials without naming them.

Both sides must realise the necessity of setting aside differences during the genocidal war against the Palestinian people, Alayasa said. Any party inciting crises and internal conflicts in such circumstances should reassess its stance.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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