As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas are moving forward towards implementing their "reconciliation" agreement, we are already getting an idea of what this new partnership is going to look like.
Abbas is trying to sell the agreement to the world as a deal that enables him and his Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the Gaza Strip and assume full control there. He and his PA officials and spokesmen have also been working hard to convince the international community that only good will come out of the "reconciliation" agreement and that Hamas is even headed toward moderation and pragmatism.
However, Abbas and the PA seem to be engaged in yet another bid to deceive and lie to the international community.
Just last week, Israel foiled another plan by Hamas to dig a terror tunnel deep into Israeli territory.
The tunnel was supposed to be used by Hamas to dispatch terrorists into Israel to kill or kidnap as many Jews as possible. The tunnel was a joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad project. The terrorists have been working on the tunnel for some time -- before and after the "reconciliation" accord that was reached in Cairo last month.
This means that for Hamas and Islamic Jihad it is business as usual -- "reconciliation" or not, they are determined to continue their jihad to destroy Israel. The two terror groups may allow Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue to control what goes on under the earth. They will also continue to stick to their weapons in preparation for war against Israel.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip continue to make it clear as day that they have no intention to disarm as a result of the "reconciliation" agreement. Abbas and the PA are welcome to assume civilian control of the Gaza Strip, but when it comes to security and weapons, Abbas is not entitled to raise this issue at all.
On November 2, Abbas received yet another indication of what awaits him and his Palestinian Authority as a result of the "reconciliation" agreement. Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced that they are determined to stick to their weapons "until the liberation of all of Palestine" -- or, in other words, until the total destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews.
The announcement was made during a rally held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip to commemorate two Hamas terrorists who were killed when Israel blew up the tunnel two days earlier.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told the thousands of Palestinians attending the rally: "We will continue to resist the occupier until the liberation of all of Palestine." He also cautioned "any crazy person against trying to take one rifle from the hands of the resistance." Zahar sent his "blessings" to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who are preparing around the clock to wage war against Israel. "We are training our sons to dig under the temporary borders so that they can reach the occupied territories [Israel]."
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, pictured in 2005. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Nafez Azzam, who spoke at the rally, also stressed his group's adherence to its weapons. "For Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the option of jihad is a basic option. It's a great honor to stand here today in front of our martyrs."
These are the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who are soon expected to become Abbas's partners in managing the affairs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the "reconciliation" deal. These Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are strongly opposed to Abbas's political agenda and even see him as a "collaborator" with Israel. At the rally, both Zahar and Azzam repeated their vehement opposition to any peaceful settlement with Israel and said that "armed resistance" is the only way to destroy Israel. The two men should be given credit for their honesty and straight-forward talk.
Zahar's warning should ignite a red light with Abbas. When Zahar says that only a "crazy person" thinks he can disarm Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip, he is clearly referring to Abbas. Zahar's statement should be seen as a direct threat to Abbas. Abbas, for his part, is not oblivious to such threats and he knows, more than anyone else, that the weapons of Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip are a red line. If he crosses it, he will be buried in one of the terror tunnels.
So why does Abbas insist on proceeding with his "reconciliation" agreement with Hamas? Because he wants to look good in the eyes of his people by showing them that he cares about Palestinian "unity" and is keen on ending the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas is hoping that the agreement will allow him to present himself as the president of all Palestinians, including those living in the Gaza Strip, and not just a powerless and weak president controlling small parts of the West Bank. Some Palestinians like to refer to Abbas as the "Mayor of Ramallah" – a hint at his limited power.
Abbas continues to tell the world that he is working to achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel. But will he be able to continue saying such things after he joins forces with his new partners in Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Will Zahar and Azzam allow Abbas to pursue any peace process with Israel after the "reconciliation" accord is implemented? The answer is simple and clear: No.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority may be on their way to returning to the Gaza Strip, but nothing good will come out of this move. This is merely an internal Palestinian issue designed to benefit both Abbas and Hamas, each in their own way and according to their own interests. But at the end of the day, no dramatic changes should be expected as a result of the "marriage" between the PA and Hamas.
This is a marriage of convenience intended first and foremost for internal consumption and then for tricking the international community. It's time for the world to listen to what Palestinian leaders are telling their people in Arabic. In Arabic, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are being very honest and frank about their dream to destroy Israel.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are indeed very serious about their intentions; they are not only talking, but are busy digging more tunnels and amassing weapons in preparation for the destruction of Israel. These are Abbas's new partners, and the world needs to take notice.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.