For more than two months, the Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation" agreement that was reached in Cairo in October has been hailed by many Arabs and Westerners as a sign that the Palestinians were finally marching forward together.
It turns out, however, that the dramatic announcement of the agreement, which was reached with the sponsorship of the Egypt, was all a bluff.
Those in the know about the Palestinian world predicted that the latest "reconciliation" deal would fail. At least five previous agreements between Hamas and Fatah, reached under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen over the past ten years, likewise failed. Every one of these agreements was stillborn, not worth the time it took to uncap the pen.
The latest "reconciliation" agreement, then, has just joined this impressive list of defunct accords. Moreover, it is not too speculative to suggest that any truce struck in the foreseeable future between Hamas and Fatah would also swiftly join its predecessors in the graveyard of agreements.
So, why do these "reconciliation" agreements between the two rival Palestinian parties keep failing? Why has it become impossible for the Palestinians to reunite themselves and work together for the sake of a better life for their people? Who is responsible for the divisions and internal bickering among the Palestinians and who are the biggest losers and winners from the continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah?
PA President Mahmoud Abbas. For the Palestinians, the word '"reconciliation" has become synonymous with discord. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
These questions prod at one as Palestinian leaders continue to call for "days of rage" and incite their people in response to President Donald Trump's announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The small protests that have swept some parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (but were exaggerated by mainstream media in the West) served as a distraction from the failure of Hamas and Fatah to implement their "reconciliation" agreement.
Once again, Hamas and Fatah have shown that their accords are about everything but "reconciliation." In fact, each time they sign such a pact, tensions between them skyrocket. For the Palestinians, the word "reconciliation" has become synonymous with dissension and disagreement.
While Palestinians, incited by their leaders, were busy over the past week throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and burning US flags and effigies of Trump, Hamas and Fatah were quietly burying the "reconciliation" agreement that they had enthusiastically celebrated a few weeks before. Hamas and Fatah have begun the process of preparing for their people the news that this has been yet another short-lived marriage, and that the two parties are simply unable to live together in the same house.
Echoing this mood, Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar told a group of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on December 21 that the "reconciliation" deal with Fatah was "collapsing." He explained: "Anyone who doesn't see the reconciliation agreement collapsing is blind. The agreement is falling apart and everyone should intervene to save it."
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said that his movement does not want to be part of any "reconciliation" agreement that "harms the interests of Hamas and the religion of Islam." Zahar, in a speech before Muslim worshippers in the Gaza Strip on December 15, said that Hamas's "project" remains the "liberation of all of Palestine." He also repeated Hamas's long-standing position that it will never recognize Israel's right to exist and will never accept the so-called two-state solution.
According to the two Hamas leaders, the main reason behind the failure of the agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction centers around the demand for Hamas to disarm and give up its security control over the Gaza Strip. Abbas and his Fatah leaders have been begging Hamas to allow them to regain security control over the Gaza Strip as part of the "reconciliation" agreement, but to no avail. Hamas' response: "Over our dead bodies!"
Some Western political analysts and experts who had applauded the "reconciliation" agreement as a sign that Hamas and Fatah were finally moving in the right direction and doing something good for the sake of their own people are in a for disappointment. One of two things is happening: Westerners are either ignorant and naïve or they are willfully deluding themselves.
Once again : Anyone who thinks that Hamas will voluntarily, and peacefully cede its security control over the Gaza Strip and lay down its weapons is living under an illusion.
The idea that Hamas would disarm and stop digging tunnels and hand the Gaza Strip on a silver platter to Abbas and Fatah is pure fantasy.
From the outset, it was clear that Hamas had no intention of relinquishing its security control over the Gaza Strip and that it plans to continue holding hostage the two million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. How do we know that? The answer is simple: That is what Hamas leaders themselves have been stating in public almost every day for the past few weeks since the "reconciliation" agreement was announced in Cairo.
The Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation" accord failed because Hamas will continue to prepare itself to pursue the fight against Israel. It wants to continue digging tunnels along the border with Israel so that it can use them one day to kill or kidnap Israelis. Hamas wants to continue building tunnels along the border with Egypt so that it can use them to smuggle weapons and terrorists into and out of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas wants to hold on to the thousands of militiamen it employs and continues to recruit in the Gaza Strip because it will never allow anyone else to rule the Gaza Strip. Hamas denies that it had agreed to disarm or dismantle its security forces when it reached its agreement with Fatah.
The "reconciliation" deal, however, not only failed because of the controversy over the security control of the Gaza Strip.
The other reason the deal never materialized is because Hamas simply cannot accept a situation in which it is being asked to accept the so-called two-state solution. Hamas is worried that its partnership with Abbas and Fatah might be interpreted as a sign that Hamas recognizes the Oslo Accords and has abandoned its genocidal ideology, which calls for the destruction of Israel. As made clear by the Hamas leaders, their goal remains to seek the "liberation of all of Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river." This is Hamas's mantra.
The agreement failed because Hamas remains the same Hamas it has been for the past 30 years. The one thing Hamas has to its credit is honesty: it now, as it has always, aims to eliminate Israel. Hamas has been making this considerately clear in all languages.
The Palestinians are now back in the kitchen. This means that the Palestinians will have to continue living with the reality that they have two separate political entities (or mini-states) – one in the West Bank and another in the Gaza Strip. Abbas and Fatah will continue to rule parts of the West Bank – under the protection of Israel, while Hamas will continue to have full control over the entire Gaza Strip, which has been turned into an Islamist emirate.
This is purely an internal Palestinian affair which concerns neither Israel nor any other party. The power struggle among the Palestinians is the direct result of a dispute between corrupt leaders of Fatah and Hamas. These are leaders who are prepared to fight each other to the last Palestinian. These are leaders who insist upon indoctrinating their people and inciting them against Israel and the US as a way of distracting attention from bad government. These are the leaders who have led their people again and again, from one war after another, to the edge of devastation.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.