Skip to main content

After Gaza, Hamas and Fatah back to bickering

The coming months will test whether Fatah and Hamas leaders can effectively manage reconstruction in Gaza and make advances toward an independent Palestinian state.
An official Israeli sign from the Civil Administration in Charge of the Government Property, placed in the West Bank near the Israeli Beitar Illit (R) settlement, states that the area is state land and trespassing is not allowed, near the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, on September 4, 2014. Israel over the weekend said it would expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land around Bethlehem, and allowed 45 days for any appeal. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI        (Photo credit should read AHMAD G

It seems as simple as pushing a button. Palestinian-Israeli politics have shifted from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, as if the 51-day war against Gaza never happened. One week after the announcement of the permanent cease-fire by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel is back to confiscating Palestinian lands for settlements, Jewish religious zealots are infiltrating Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Palestinian internal bickering is back to its prewar level.

How did the situation change so fast? What happened to all the rhetoric about the need to double down and find a political solution to the Palestinian conflict? How can Israel get away with making the biggest land grab in 30 years? Does the fact that US-Israeli relations are at an all-time low allow or encourage such behavior?

Israeli officials have said that the West Bank appropriation was related to the June kidnapping and killing of three Israelis near the area. It is more likely, however, an attempt to improve the political standing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees real threats from the right flank of his Likud Party and other settler-loving politicians.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are having problems developing an effective liberation strategy. The steadfastness of the Palestinian fighters and their ability to shake up the Israelis have increased the popularity of groups such as Hamas and strengthened the "resistance model." To counter this new popular sentiment, the Ramallah-based leadership is trying to forge ahead with a negotiating strategy that has teeth. This need has pushed Abbas and company to develop a time-based initiative. The ideas that Abbas is presenting to US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Arab League involve leveraging joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other United Nations agencies. Abbas wants to offer to waive the idea of not joining the ICC in return for a serious mechanism for the peace process.

Getting back to serious talks might partially explain why the well-received Palestinian national reconciliation is under pressure. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, it is said, has been asked to give his blessing to the Abbas initiative, but has refused to do so, instead insisting that only "resistance," meaning military resistance, will work with Israel.

Abbas is also slowing the unification process to give the peace initiative a chance. Of course, Hamas leaders have jumped all over the recent Abbas interview in which he accused Hamas of being responsible for the longevity of the war and for having created a shadow government in Gaza. Hamas has said that Abbas is repeating the Israeli position and weakening the unity of Palestinians as a direct response to Israeli wishes.

The return to business-as-usual in internal Israeli and Palestinian politics is a real problem. Palestinians, especially Gazans, are extremely frustrated with this because of the possibility that it will delay badly needed reconstruction. Putting hopes in a renewed peace process, some would argue, does not justify weakening Palestinian national unity. At the same time, it can similarly be argued that national unity should not become an excuse for Hamas to violently control and terrorize in the name of "victory" by the resistance.

Palestinian opinion poll conducted in late August shows a clear increase in support for Hamas. Ironically, Abbas and his position on Gaza received more support in Gaza than in the West Bank. Public support for fighters so soon after a war is normal and to be expected. The true test of such support will be seen in the months ahead and in the way the leaders perform on the ground. The reconstruction in Gaza and the way the talks on the airport, seaport and prisoners are conducted in three weeks will speak volumes to the Palestinian public as to whether they should support the Hamas version of military resistance or the Abbas version of nonviolent political diplomacy.

The wish of the majority of Palestinians, as revealed in the August poll, is that their leaders remain united and agree on a unified strategy for the main prize — namely, the end of the occupation and the creation of a genuinely independent state of Palestine. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial