Hamas and Fatah are expected to announce a new unity government on Thursday after reporting over the weekend that they had made a breakthrough in discussions toward a reconciliation agreement…
London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that the new Palestinian government would be headquartered in the Gaza Strip, and its new prime minister would also hail from Gaza. “Fatah and Hamas have concluded that the president’s compound and the parliament will stay in Ramallah. Hamas and Fatah are in complete agreement that the next Palestinian unity government will be seated in the Gaza Strip and its prime minister, too, will be from Gaza,” Hamas official Ahmad Yousef told the newspaper.
After the failure of the PLO attempt to get a Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood, or even to get admitted to a bunch of UN agencies, the latest tactic is to threaten ‘unity’ with Hamas again.
One of the issues about which there are conflicting reports is whether Salam Fayyad, the US-educated Palestinian Prime Minister, will keep his post. Hamas calls him a tool of Israel and the US, suspecting that he would be happy to settle for a peaceful state alongside Israel — it’s interesting that they don’t seem to suspect Mahmoud Abbas of the same heresy. Of course Fayyad is the only one the Western donors that keep the Palestinian Authority afloat trust to not simply steal all of their money, so there are, er, practical reasons to keep him.
Having said that, it is important to realize that there can never be an actual ‘reconciliation’ between Fatah and Hamas. They have irreconcilable views of the nature of the ‘Palestine’ that they both hope will rise on the ashes of Israel — and plenty of personal blood feuds.
There are examples of radical Islamists putting aside their differences when there is a greater enemy. For example, Shiite Iran was prepared to supply and finance the Sunni extremists of Hamas, whose parent was the Muslim Brotherhood, one of Iran’s great rivals in the struggle for the Middle East. And Iran-backed Syria supported Sunni insurgents in Iraq who were fighting Americans and even attacking Shiite Iraqis! But I think working together in the same government will be more than Fatah and Hamas can manage for any length of tme.
Interestingly, the possible presence of Hamas in the Palestinian ‘government’ seems to make little or no difference to the EU, which — despite its own money troubles, and in the middle of a bruising budget fight — has decided to boost aid to ‘Palestine’ by another 100 million Euros! They either don’t know what Hamas is — and they cannot possibly be that stupid or ill-informed — or their anti-racist, peace-loving, genocide-opposing ideals don’t amount to more than a truckload of horse-pucky.
PM Netanyahu has said that the Palestinians can’t have both Hamas in the government and peace. Israel and the US have threatened to cut off cooperation and funding from the PA if it allows Hamas to join the government (unless Hamas agrees to the the ‘Quartet conditions’ of ending terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting prior PLO agreements, like the Oslo accord. But this sounds quaint today).
The Obama Administration really doesn’t want to cut off the PA, and indeed recently convinced the head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), to remove a hold on $200 million of aid which she had placed as a result of the PA’s UN maneuver. The administration produced 500 pages of documents, presumably to show that without the aid, the PA would collapse and Hamas would take over.
This is a game of diplomatic ‘chicken’. The PLO and perhaps the Europeans think that the the threat of legitimizing Hamas is enough to force Israel into precipitous concessions on issues like settlements, Jerusalem, etc. But the danger is that Hamas really might succeed in overthrowing the Fatah-run PA. One thing that is probably not in the cards is a stable unity government composed of Fatah and Hamas.
My guess is that the PA will keep Fayyad and keep its aid, and do little more than talk about reconciliation with Hamas.