As the U.S. Administration and the international community continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas seems to be working toward establishing an independent state of its own in the Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks, reports have surfaced in a number of Arab and Western media outlets to the effect that Hamas leaders have decided to establish a "higher committee" for managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.
Although Hamas spokesmen have denied the reports, sources close to the Islamist movement said that discussions were underway with representatives of other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip to set up the "higher committee."
The sources said that the decision came after Hamas gave up on the idea of achieving "national reconciliation" with Mahmoud Abbas's rival Fatah faction.
Abbas and Fatah see the talk about a "higher committee" as a sign of Hamas's intention to proceed with its scheme to establish a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. They consider the purported plan a "severe blow" to the two-state solution and unity among Palestinians.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, last week confirmed that his movement was working toward turning the Gaza Strip into an independent state. "There is nothing wrong or shameful about labeling the current situation in the Gaza Strip an authority or administration," Zahar said. "If we establish an emirate or state in the Gaza Strip or in any part of Palestine, this would not mean that we are prepared to give up one inch of Palestine."
He later went on to explain that Abbas's Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, would be excluded from the proposed administration in the Gaza Strip "because of its collusion with the Israeli occupation."
Zahar's statements came amid mounting tensions between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is shown in an August 2014 television clip, addressing a Hamas rally to celebrate their attacks on Israel during last summer's Operation Protective Edge. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
In the past few weeks, Hamas leaders stepped up their criticism of Abbas, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and called for his removal from the political scene. Hamas leaders also do not miss an opportunity to remind everyone that Abbas is no longer a legitimate president, because his term in office expired back in January 2009.
Salah Bardaweel, another senior Hamas official, said that Abbas was acting as if he were a dictator "who lives in a state of personal intransigence and total refusal to share powers."
Hamas's attacks on Abbas are seen by some Palestinians as part of its efforts to prepare for the creation of a separate entity or state in the Gaza Strip. Today it has become obvious that the talk about "national reconciliation" and "unity" between Hamas and Fatah is not serious.
Hamas and Fatah officials agree that the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is likely to continue for many years.
Abbas's repeated statements that there would be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip reflect nothing but wishful thinking on his part. Deep inside, Abbas knows that Hamas is not going to allow him to set foot in the Gaza Strip or set up any governing body there.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority continue to seek the world's help and support in establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. But they are not telling the world how exactly they intend to achieve this goal, at a time when Hamas is consolidating its grip over the Gaza Strip and making plans to turn it into a separate state.
Palestinian political analysts believe that it is only a matter of time before Hamas succeeds in fulfilling its scheme to turn the Gaza Strip into an independent state.
"The discussion is no longer whether there is a separationist plan for the Gaza Strip, but when and how it would be implemented," said Hassan Asfour, a former Palestinian Authority minister affiliated with Fatah. "It is the duty of the Palestinian Authority leadership to say what it intends to do to foil this plan."
Addressing the Palestinian Authority president, Asfour added: "Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, it is not enough to talk on television about [Hamas's] separation plan. Think of ways to thwart it. Otherwise, no one will say that Hamas 'hijacked' the Gaza Strip; instead everyone will be talking about how the Palestinian Authority leadership abandoned the Gaza Strip."
If and when Hamas carries out its plan and establishes its own sovereign state in the Gaza Strip, the international community, primarily the U.S. and EU, will have to come to terms with the fact that the two-state solution has finally been realized; the Palestinians ended up with two states of their own -- an Islamist emirate in the Gaza Strip and a PLO-controlled state in the West Bank.
The Americans and Europeans will also have to listen very carefully to what Hamas is saying: namely, that a Palestinian state in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, or any part of the Palestinian territories, would not end its struggle to destroy Israel and replace it with the State of Greater Palestine.