Qatar Emir's Gaza Visit Puts Focus on Palestinian Unity

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The Emir of Qatar’s visit to Gaza and his coordination with high-ranking Hamas officials has Muhannad Abd al-Hamid wondering whether Qatar is trying to reinforce the rift between Palestinians on the West Bank and the embattled strip.

The visit of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, to the Gaza Strip raises big questions: Will Qatar and its Emir reinforce the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and abandon the efforts to end the state of division which culminated in the Doha Agreement? Or will the visit carry a surprise?

Here, it is fair to assume that the Emir and his delegation will travel to Ramallah and announce the initiation of the implementation of the Doha Agreement, though there have been no introductions or preparations for such a step.

This reinforces the belief that the step is a unilateral one [taken by Qatar]. This implies the following:

First, Qatari legitimacy will be granted to the sacked, rebellious, divisive and illegal government of Hamas, which took power through a military coup in 2007. Separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be reinforced. This situation will further weaken Palestinian cohesion in the face of the fiercest Israeli settlement activity yet, which undermines the components of the Palestinian state.

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Second, Qatari legitimacy will be lent to the principle of using force to resolve internal differences.

This principle has been used by Hamas through military coups, controlling institutions by force, and imposing the authority of a single party. This has led to the violation and indefinite disablement of the democratic process. The terms of the Legislative Council and the presidency expired two years ago, but no elections have so far been held. Disrupting the reconciliation means not resorting to the people as a reference, in line with the principle of political Islam: You commit to democracy once and only once.

Third, Hamas will be rewarded for having disrupted the implementation of the Doha Agreement and linking the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip to [the Doha Agreement]. This contradicts the Cairo and Doha Agreements and the results of the Palestinian National Dialogue, which put the task of reconstruction on the agenda of the National Unity Government, in the context of strengthening the unity of the Palestinian homeland and the integrity of its institutions.

Fourth, in this senior official visit, the Qatari government overrode the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and as the National Authority’s reference in the occupied territories that has the right to withdraw confidence from any Palestinian government.

The PLO deemed the government of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh illegitimate and called for its dismissal after its bloody coup in the Gaza Strip.

Also, the Legislative Council is part of the National Council, which has the right to intervene in all aspects of Palestinian affairs. The historical, voluntary absence of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from PLO institutions does not mean that their legitimacy should be removed, but means that we should include these factions in the PLO institutions under its main system.

The reconciliation agreements provide for settling this issue through  elections.

Fifth, the Arab League has endorsed the positions of the Palestinian legitimate representative in line with the Arab League Charter. It has refused to deal with the sacked Hamas government and has deemed it illegitimate. Even the government of Tehran, which has strong ties with Hamas, refrained from inviting Ismail Haniyeh to the [Non-Aligned Movement] Summit as it contradicts with the Palestinian legitimacy approved by the Islamic countries.

This visit is a violation by Qatar of the Arab League’s position. Former presidents who have surpassed the organization and sought to adopt an alternative to it are Saddam Hussein — who later backed down — Moammar Gadhafi, and Hafez and Bashar al-Assad. They did so in the context of employing the Palestinian factor as a bargaining chip. But they did not succeed.

Sixth, if the State of Qatar has reneged on its efforts toward Palestinian reconciliation, does this mean that it supports the establishment of an Islamic emirate or state in the Gaza Strip? This is a logical conclusion even if the intent is otherwise.

The question is: What would the function of such a state be? Would it be a substitute for the states in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or a [temporary] station to transfer control to the West Bank?

The most important question is: What is the program of the “emirate” to resolve the national question?

Theoretically, Hamas claims that Palestine — from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea — is an Islamic state, that it does not recognize the state of Israel and endorses a long-term truce.

Practically, Hamas is allowing Israel to impose the project of division of roles, with the population being given to political Islam and the land to the occupying state, in addition to dropping the Palestinian demand for ending the occupation and settlement activity.

Hamas’ experience in controlling security across the Gaza borders is reassuring and encourages the Israelis to reinforce their control over the West Bank.

What is common between the legitimate authority in the West Bank and the sacked authority in the Gaza Strip is security control and suppressing all attempts of resistance, through security coordination and the adoption of the slogan of resistance and preparing for confrontation. But the lesson is [reflected] in the result, which is suppression. 

The difference between the two authorities is that Ramallah has demanded a cessation of settlement activity, ending the occupation — including the city of Jerusalem — resolving the refugee problem and establishing a Palestinian state.

On the other hand, the authorities in Gaza have demanded the establishment of an Islamic Palestine and deemed anything else unacceptable.

The emirate project converges with the Israeli project. So, does the state of Qatar support it?

Qatar may have hidden tactical motives. Qatar may possibly be seeking to break off Hamas' relationship with Iran and prevent Iran from using Hamas in the event of an Israeli-US military strike.

An informed source has said that Iran provides $15 million in monthly aid to the sacked government, which was the reason behind the predominance of the pro-Iranian direction within Hamas over the direction which calls for turning against Iran “in line with the positions of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In this case, the Emir of Qatar might seek to persuade the Iranian current within Hamas against aligning with the Iran axis in exchange for Qatari support.

In any case, all attempts to use the Palestinian cause and its political extensions as leverage in this or that battle, particularly in regional conflicts, have failed. There is a correlation between the weakness or division on the Palestinian political arena and the increasing [foreign] interventions.

The Palestinian people are the only guarantee for achieving democracy and preserving national unity. Popular intervention has always been and will remain the only hope.

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Found in: palestinian authority, palestinian, hamas, gaza
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