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Palestinian Authority blames Hamas for lack of progress

The Palestinian Authority accuses Hamas of impeding the PA's diplomatic efforts in international forums by launching rockets into Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas and Israel have a tentative truce.
Palestinian Hamas militants display home made rockets during a rally marking the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, in Gaza city December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem - RC18C5FCBFD0

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says Hamas rocket attacks on Israel are interfering with PA efforts to gain international condemnation of Israel for its actions against the Gaza Strip. But Hamas says the PA has no one to blame but itself for its failures.

In fact, it appeared Hamas and Israel made some progress with each other via an Egypt-brokered truce March 31, despite the flurry of rocket exchanges that immediately preceded the fragile calm. Israel agreed to open two border crossings it had closed recently, and to expand the area in which Palestinians can fish off the coast.

Before this, however, Hamas found itself the target of heavy criticism from many directions, for its rocket attacks on Israel and especially for its violence in mid-March against Palestinians who were protesting the dire living conditions in the Gaza Strip. 

On March 10, Fatah’s Central Committee member Jamal Mheisen accused Hamas on Felestin TV of “never [being] willing to return to the Palestinian national ranks," and said "Palestinian and Arab efforts to encircle Hamas are required.” 

On March 27, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, told the Voice of Palestine radio station, “Gaza’s situation cannot remain the same. No party can [interfere] with its security." Also that day, Ibrahim Khraishi, the permanent observer representative of Palestine to the United Nations, told Voice of Palestine, “Palestinian efforts to condemn Israeli violations in Gaza are being undermined by the rockets launched from Gaza.” In a March 28 interview on An-Najah television, PA security services spokesman Adnan al-Dumairi accused Hamas of being non-Palestinian.

Muwaffaq Matar, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, described in his March 26 article on the movement’s website the recent rocket attack on Tel Aviv as “a stray rocket Hamas is using to achieve its interests and receive money through understandings with Israel." He was referring to understandings between Hamas and Israel reached in November under Egyptian brokerage. Israel had agreed to allow the entry of a Qatari financial grant worth $15 million per month to pay the salaries of Hamas employees in Gaza and help poor families. Matar believes that by launching the rockets, Hamas aimed to pressure Israel to proceed with the grant from Qatar.

Did it work? Through the March 31 agreement brokered by Egypt, Israel agreed to raise the amount Qatar can send — to $40 million a month.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Al-Monitor, “Fatah and the PA condemnations for rocket-launching are old news. They criticize any act of resistance and their rhetoric promotes the Israeli narrative before the international community. The PA’s diplomatic conduct is inappropriate.”

Of note, PA officials’ statements against Hamas on March 28 and March 31 coincided with Israel’s attack against Hamas targets inside Gaza.

Qassem added, “Hamas abides by the international law, which ensures the legitimacy of the resistance against Israel. The weak political discourse of the PA in international events reflects political bankruptcy, which the national Palestinian entity refuses.”

Abdullah Abdullah, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and head of the political committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ rockets are impeding our diplomatic efforts before the UN and are restricting our action to mobilize voices condemning Israeli violations. Hamas is not helping us in this regard. [Hamas] is responsible for Gaza and each rocket launched toward Israel from Gaza burdens us legally and diplomatically. Israel is using these rockets to mobilize voices against us.”

An official in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The stance toward Hamas’ rockets must remain inside the Palestinian territories and should not be discussed in international platforms, because it would give Israel a diplomatic card to condemn us.”

During the March 26 regular session of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian cause, UN Middle East Special Envoy Nikolai Mladinov called on the council members to condemn Hamas’ rockets on Israel because they are provocative and risk escalation. Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon also asked the council to condemn Hamas following the Tel Aviv rocket attack.

Mazen Nour el-Din, dean of the Faculty of Law at Ummah Open University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “It's wrong to blame Hamas’ rockets of undermining the PA’s efforts to condemn Israel over its violations of international law. We should separate both matters because they are different. We can't compare Israel’s violations to Hamas’ rocket-launching, and we can't [blame] a lack of condemnation for Israel" on Hamas for launching the rockets.

This was not the first time Hamas was discussed before the UN and its bodies. The United States on Dec. 6 had sought an official condemnation of Hamas for launching rockets on Israel, but failed to secure necessary votes of two-thirds of the members: 87 voted in favor, 57 voted against and 33 abstained. Even the PA opposed the bill.

Rami Abdo, director of ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies, a nongovernmental think tank based in London, told Al-Monitor, “Accusing Hamas’ rockets of impeding the PA’s efforts before the UN reflects the failure of the PA’s diplomatic corps in international platforms and exposes the illusions it tried to sell as diplomatic victories against Israel in the international community. In reality, the PA did not make a real breakthrough in UN diplomatic circles against Israel. On the contrary, the Palestinian mission at the Human Rights Council has undergone major setbacks.”

With the PA accusing Hamas of obstructing its diplomatic efforts with the UN, already tense relations are worsening. The PA’s performance before the UN has been deteriorating without any Hamas effort. On March 22, the Human Rights Council, rather than criticizing Hamas, issued a resolution condemning Israel’s use of fatal force against protesters during their weekly demonstrations in the Gaza Strip.

The PA can't blame Hamas rockets for its failures before the UN.

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