One year after Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced the establishment of the Palestinian Fatah-Hamas "national consensus" government, the two rival parties remain as far apart as ever.
The "national consensus" government, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, was formed after a series of "understandings" between Fatah and Hamas on the basis of previous "reconciliation" agreements between the two sides.
A year later, it has become obvious that the "national consensus" government has failed to achieve its main objectives: the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip; ending the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, and preparing for new presidential and parliamentary elections.
Fatah and Hamas can only blame each other for the failure of the latest attempt to end their dispute and do something good for their people. There is no way this time that they could lay the blame on Israel.
The two parties had a chance to cooperate on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of last year's military confrontation between Israel and Hamas. The international community even offered to assist in the mission, but Fatah and Hamas chose to continue fighting each other at the expense of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Until today, the two rival Palestinian parties have not been able to reach agreement on a mechanism for the transfer of funds from international donors to the Gaza Strip.
Fatah claims that Hamas wants to steal the money, while Hamas is already accusing Fatah and the Palestinian Authority government of working to lay their hands on the funds.
Fatah and Hamas agreed back then that the Hamdallah government would remain in office for only six months -- the period needed to prepare for long overdue presidential and legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the "interim" government has just completed its first year in power, while the chances of holding new elections under the current circumstances are non-existent.
Again, the two sides do not seem to be interested at all in sending Palestinians to the ballot boxes. Each side has many good reasons to avoid holding new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
First, Fatah and Hamas do not trust each other, and each side is convinced that the other would try to steal the vote. How can there be free and democratic elections while Hamas and Fatah continue to arrest and torture each other's supporters in the Gaza Strip and West Bank?
Second, Fatah is afraid that Hamas's chances of winning the elections, especially in the West Bank, are very high. That is because many Palestinians still do not trust Abbas and Fatah, whom they accuse of maintaining close security ties with Israel. Moreover, many Palestinians remain disillusioned with Fatah because of its failure to combat financial and administrative corruption and pave the way for the emergence of new leaders.
There is no way that Hamas and Fatah can cast the blame on Israel regarding the issue of elections. If they were really interested in holding new elections, they could do so with the help of the international community, as was the case with previous votes in 2005 and 2006. Israel even helped the Palestinian hold those elections.
When several Hamas candidates from east Jerusalem ran in the January 2006 parliamentary election, Israel did nothing to stop them. Israel even opened its post offices in the city to allow Arab voters from the city (who hold Israeli-issued ID cards) to vote in the election.
Charges made by some Palestinians and anti-Israel groups around the world, to the effect that Israel is responsible for "foiling" efforts to achieve Palestinian unity, are baseless. Although the Israeli government initially opposed the Fatah-Hamas "reconciliation" deal that was reached in 2014, it has not stopped the Palestinian prime minister and some of his cabinet members from visiting the Gaza Strip to pursue the implementation of the accord. In fact, Prime Minister Hamdallah has since visited the Gaza Strip twice, after receiving permission from Israel to go through the Erez border crossing.
Recently, ten Palestinian ministers were forced to leave the Gaza Strip, after Hamas placed them under house arrest in their hotel and banned them from meeting with locals. The ministers entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing. They came to the Gaza Strip to help solve the problem of thousands of Hamas government employees who have not received salaries for more than a year, and to discuss issues related to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
So while Israel facilitated the visits by Hamdallah and his ministers to the Gaza Strip, it was Hamas that expelled them and prevented them from carrying out their duties. Had Israel expelled the ministers from the Gaza Strip or stopped them from entering the area, the country would have been condemned by the international community for "blocking" efforts to achieve Palestinian unity and rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Today, it has become unavoidably clear that Fatah and Hamas, and not Israel, are responsible for the ongoing plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The two parties are unlikely to resolve their differences in the near future, further exacerbating the misery of their people. Each party cares only about its own interests, while at the same time lying to the world that it is all Israel's fault. Hamas is not willing to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip, certainly not to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, who were expelled from there in 2007. As for Abbas, he does not seem to be interested in regaining control over a problematic area such as the Gaza Strip, where most of the population lives under the poverty line and in refugee camps.
Yet instead of being honest with their people and admitting their failure to improve their people's living conditions, Hamas and Fatah continue to wage smear campaigns against each other and, at the same time, also against Israel.
The campaigns that Hamas and Fatah are waging against Israel, particularly in the international community, are designed to divert attention from their failure to provide their people with basic services or any kind of hope.
While ignoring the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority leaders were prepared to invest huge efforts and resources in trying to have Israel suspended from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA). It is as if the Palestinians had solved all their major problems and all that they needed to do now was to stop Israeli soccer players from playing in international matches.
Hamas, for its part, continues to invest enormous resources in digging new tunnels, in preparation for another war with Israel. The money that is being invested in the tunnels and the purchase and smuggling of weapons could benefit many families who lost their homes during the last war. But Hamas, like the Palestinian Authority, does not care about the misery of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They want to fight Israel to the last Palestinian. And this is all being done with the help of anti-Israel governments around the world, and groups such the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose only goal is to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jews rather than to help the Palestinians.