For the past 11 years, a number of Arab countries have tried to end the power struggle between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, to no avail. Several "reconciliation" agreements previously signed between Fatah and Hamas have never been implemented. Pictured: Abbas (right) and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal meet on November 24, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt, in one "reconciliation" attempt. (Photo by Mohammed al-Hams/Khaled Mashaal's Office via Getty Images)
Last week, Hamas began paying salaries to thousands of its employees after Qatar sent a $15 million grant in cash to the Gaza Strip. The money was brought to the Gaza Strip by senior Qatari envoy Mohammed El-Amadi through the Erez border crossing with Israel.
The Qatari grant is in the context of efforts by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas.
The payment was the first of a total of $90 million that the emirate has pledged to send to the Gaza Strip in the next six months, according to Palestinian sources.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, however, remain opposed to an agreement; reports say that one of the reasons they are opposed to a truce accord between Israel and Hamas is because such a deal will pave the way for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
On November 11, Abbas again accused Hamas of being part of a US and Israeli "conspiracy" to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. He also threatened to impose punitive measures against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on the pretext that the "conspiracy" was aimed at establishing a separate Palestinian state there.
The reality, after all, is that there already is a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, and It has been there since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the area and toppled Abbas's Palestinian Authority.
Abbas and the PA, all the same, have since been living in denial. They have even created an alternate reality in their head -- one that continues to believe that it is still possible to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
For the past 11 years, a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have tried to end the power struggle between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction, to no avail. Several "reconciliation" agreements previously signed between Fatah and Hamas have never been implemented.
To date, Hamas and Fatah have not been able to agree on the interpretation of the "reconciliation" agreements already signed. Fatah claims that the agreements are supposed to allow its Ramallah-based government to assume full responsibility over the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, remains vehemently opposed to relinquishing security control over the Gaza Strip. The most Hamas is willing to offer Abbas's government is limited civilian control, which means paying salaries and funding schools, hospitals and other public institutions in the Gaza Strip.
In the past few weeks, Abbas and some of his top officials in Ramallah have warned that any truce between Israel and Hamas will "consolidate" the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thus paving the way for the establishment of an independent and separate Palestinian state in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Now that understandings appear to have been reached between Israel, Qatar, Egypt and Hamas to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Abbas and his PA officials are seething with rage.
As part of the purported understandings, Qatar sent millions of dollars in cash to the Gaza Strip on November 8. The money will be used to pay thousands of Hamas employees and needy Palestinian families. According to some reports, a senior Qatari official, Mohammed El Amadi, arrived in the Gaza Strip carrying three suitcases stuffed with $15 million.
In response, Abbas's official news agency, Wafa, issued a strongly worded statement accusing Hamas of being part of a "Zionist-American conspiracy" to detach the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. According to the statement, Hamas is now cooperating with the US and Israel to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. "There will be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip, and there will be no [separate Palestinian] state in the Gaza Strip," the statement quoted Abbas as saying.
This claim, of course, is a total misrepresentation of both the reality and facts. If anyone is responsible for a separate Palestinian state that already exists in the Gaza Strip, it is Fatah and Hamas, not Israel and the US. Actually, the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah is completely unrelated to Israel, the US or any other third party. The dispute between the two Palestinian parties is the direct result of a power struggle over money and power.
Neither Israel nor the US helped or condoned Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hamas managed to topple Abbas's Palestinian Authority in Gaza mainly because his Western-funded security forces surrendered without putting up a fight.
Since then, Hamas and its allies in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have turned the Gaza Strip into a separate and independent Palestinian state. Hamas and PIJ do not recognize Abbas as the legitimate president of the Palestinians. They have, in the Gaza Strip, their own de facto government, Hamas; their own parliament; their own security forces and militias, and even their own laws.
Abbas can continue to present himself to the world as the "President of the State of Palestine" as much as he wants.
He is only living in an illusion: it is obvious by now that he does not represent the two million Palestinians who are living in a separate Hamas-controlled entity in the Gaza Strip. Abbas has not been able to set foot in the Gaza Strip for the past 11 years, and his chances of ever returning there now seem to be zero.
Hamas says that if Abbas dares to enter the Gaza Strip, he will be put on trial for "high treason" -- a crime punishable by death in accordance with Palestinian laws and traditions. In the eyes of Hamas, Abbas is a traitor because he is conducting security coordination with Israel and imposing economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
Abbas undoubtedly knows that as long as Hamas and PIJ are in the Gaza Strip, he will never be able to return there. He also undoubtedly knows that he feels safer being in Ramallah than in the Gaza Strip. In Ramallah, he is safe because the IDF is only a few hundred meters away from his headquarters and residence. Were it not for the presence of Israel in the West Bank, Hamas would have toppled Abbas's government a long time ago. It is Israel's ongoing crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that is keeping Abbas and his government in power.
Abbas most likely does not want to acknowledge this reality. He also most likely does not want to accept any responsibility for the divisions among his people, particularly the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead, he is now seeking to accuse everyone else but himself for the fact that there already is a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. Surreally, Abbas is now accusing Israel and the US of working towards establishing a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip -- when this has been the reality for the past 11 years.
The separate Palestinian state was created in the Gaza Strip the day Hamas took control over the area. It was created there the day Abbas's security forces in the Gaza Strip surrendered to Hamas in 2007.
The separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip was created the day Abbas and his enemies in Hamas failed to honor the several "reconciliation" agreements they had signed in the past decade.
What is even more surreal is that Abbas is now accusing Hamas of collaboration with Israel and the US to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. This accusation is ridiculous, given the fact that Hamas continues to seek the destruction of Israel and considers the US an enemy of Arabs and Muslims.
Abbas, however, apparently does not want to be confused by reality. He prefers to continue his long-standing strategy of blaming everyone else but himself for the miseries of the Palestinians. The emerging truce deal only confirms the reality that Abbas has been trying to ignore for the past 11 years: that a separate Palestinian state does exist, and it is run by Hamas, PIJ and other armed groups who continue to give the Palestinian president the imperial brush-off.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.