Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) government is on its way back to managing civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, meanwhile, says it will remain in control of security and will not lay down its weapons or dismantle its security forces and militias.
Abbas's new partnership with Hamas -- the product of Egyptian mediation efforts between the two parties -- means that from this moment on, the Palestinian Authority president should now be held responsible for everything that takes place inside the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and his PA government should now be held accountable, among other things, for the fate of two Israeli civilians and the remains of IDF soldiers being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas.
Now that the Palestinian Authority has reached a deal with Hamas, President Mahmoud Abbas should be held accountable for what goes on in Gaza. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Abbas should also now be held responsible for any rockets that are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel. Abbas cannot have it both ways. He cannot use the new partnership with Hamas to project himself as the legitimate president of all Palestinians, including those living in the Gaza Strip, but at the same time argue that he does not have "control on the ground." He cannot have his prime minister and government managing the day-to-day affairs of the Gaza Strip while at the same time claim that he cannot do anything about Hamas's security forces and militia.
Until now, Abbas was rightly absolved of any responsibility for what was happening in the Gaza Strip. Hamas expelled him and his Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007, and since then he has been able to argue that because he is not there, he is not responsible if Hamas has tunnels and is building up its weaponry and firing rockets at Israel. Fair enough.
Now, the jig is up. Abbas can no longer avoid responsibility for anything that happens inside the Gaza Strip. He demanded that Hamas dismantle its shadow government and allow the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities as the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was clever enough to grab the opportunity. Hamas complied with his demand and cordially invited Abbas and his government back into the Gaza Strip.
What motivated Hamas? Love for Abbas? Love for Egypt? No, Hamas complied with Abbas's demand because doing so furthered its own interests. Why shouldn't Hamas go for any agreement that does not require it to make any meaningful concessions? Why shouldn't Hamas accept a deal that allows it to retain its security control over the Gaza Strip while Abbas's government is busy collecting garbage, paying salaries to civil servants and footing the bill for water and electricity?
Abbas knows that Hamas will not lay down its weapons or dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, despite the "reconciliation" agreement and the presence of the Palestinian Authority government in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas nevertheless decided to proceed with the new "reconciliation" agreement to assert his status as the legitimate president of all Palestinians. He also went with the agreement to thwart any deal between Hamas and his arch-rival, Mohammed Dahlan. Abbas is prepared to do just about anything to prevent Dahlan, who, based the United Arab Emirates, sees himself as a potential successor to Abbas, from returning to the Palestinian political arena. The situation continues to cause Abbas sleepless nights.
Now that Abbas's government is back in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the rest of the world are entitled to hold him fully responsible for what takes place there.
Abbas's government is either the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip, or it is not. If Hamas is not going to hand over security control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority government, then the whole "reconciliation" deal is nothing but a joke. Such an arrangement would turn Abbas into the mayor of the Gaza Strip, while Hamas remains the de facto ruler and sovereign authority there.
This is what is actually happening: Hamas wants to endorse the Hezbollah model in the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants Abbas to deal with the dirt of civilian affairs while it continues to dig out dirt for more terror tunnels.
If Abbas reached a bad deal with Hamas, that is his problem. It should not be the problem of Israel. It would be a mistake to return to the pre-2007 era, when both Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, were sitting in the Gaza Strip while Hamas and other terror groups were firing rockets and missiles at Israel. Back then, both Abbas and Arafat were unable to stop the terror attacks against Israel even though the Palestinian Authority security forces were in charge.
Enough is enough. From now on, any government sitting in the Gaza Strip should be held fully accountable for what happens there. Failing to hold the Palestinian Authority government -- and Abbas -- responsible means endorsing the Hezbollah model, where the Lebanese government is impotent and the real power is wielded by the Shiite terror group, Hezbollah.
The Lebanese government should be held responsible for everything that happens inside that country. The Lebanese government, as the sovereign power, should be held accountable for what Hezbollah does. This is the precisely the policy that needs to be adopted now with Abbas. Israel should demand that he and his government return the bodies of the IDF soldiers. Israel should demand that he return also two Israelis held inside the Gaza Strip. Israel should demand that Abbas and his government stop building tunnels that are to be used to attack Israel.
If Abbas responds that although his government is back in the Gaza Strip he has no control over security matters, he should be called out for the bluff of the "reconciliation" deal. The PA president ought to be informed: If you are not in control and your government is not really in charge, then get out of Gaza and stop playing the role of legitimate president of the Palestinian people; you are really nothing but a puppet dangled by the leaders of Hamas.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.