The power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians over the past three and a half years. Thousands of Palestinians have also been wounded, many critically, in the bloody confrontation that erupted between the two parties almost immediately after Hamas won the parliamentary election in January 2006.

The biggest mistake the US made was supporting the guys who lost the elections in their failed efforts to overthrow the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.

The Americans provided Fatah with weapons and money with the hope that it would be able to remove Hamas from power.

But US meddling in Palestinian affairs backfired, further boosting Hamas's popularity until it managed to kick Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. The US, by the way, is continuing to make the same mistake even today by openly training and funding Fatah militias in the West Bank.

This support is actually discrediting Fatah in the eyes of many Palestinians who now view its leaders as collaborators and puppets in the hands of the US and Israel. If the Americans want to help Fatah, they should insist that it reform itself and get rid of all the corrupt leaders and representatives who have been in power for decades.

The best way to undermine Hamas is not by arming and training Fatah militiamen and thugs and calling them policemen, but by offering the Palestinians a better alternative to the Islamic movement.

Contrary to what many decision-makers in the West think, this is not a power struggle between good guys (Fatah) and bad guys (Hamas).

This is a power struggle between bad guys and bad guys.

Hamas and Fatah are not fighting over which party is going to bring democracy and a better economy to the Palestinians. Nor are they fighting over building infrastructure and good government.

Instead, these two parties are fighting only over money and power.

The real battle between them is over who is going to control the billions of dollars in financial aid that the Palestinians are continuing to receive from the US and the many donors in the West.

Moreover, this is a power struggle between one party that won a free election in 2006 (Hamas) and another that lost (Fatah). Fatah, which managed to maintain exclusive control over the Palestinian issue for the past four decades, has never come to terms with the fact that it lost an election to Hamas.

Fatah's refusal to accept its defeat and Hamas's insistence on clinging to power is the main reason behind the power struggle.

US pressure on Fatah to launch a massive crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank has added fuel to the fire and is threatening to turn divisions among the Palestinians into a permanent reality.

Hundreds of Hamas supporters are now being held in various Fatah-controlled prisons in the West Bank. In response, Hamas has rounded up hundreds of Fatah men in the Gaza Strip.

The two parties are inciting against each other the same way they used to incite against Israel. Hamas and Fatah hate each other so much that are investing huge sums of money to defame and discredit each other.

Efforts by a number of Arab countries - including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt - to solve the dispute have failed as the gap between the two rival sides continues to widen.

Fatah recently claimed that Hamas has been plotting to assassinate its top leaders in the West Bank, including Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President. Hamas, on the other hand, has repeatedly accused Fatah of spying on its members and leaders on behalf of Israel.

Ironically, Israel's presence in the middle - between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank - is preventing an all-out war between Hamas and Fatah.

Had it not been for Israel, it is highly likely that the Gaza Strip would be dispatching suicide bombers and rockets to kill Abbas and his top lieutenants in the West Bank.

On the other hand, Israel's presence in the middle is perhaps the main reason why Fatah has thus far refrained from launching a military offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

All indications are that Fatah and Hamas are headed toward more confrontation and bloodshed. As such, it would be useful if the Obama Administration appointed a special envoy to solve the crisis between these two parties. Before talking about making peace between Israel and the Palestinians, what's needed now is to try to make peace between Palestinians and Palestinians.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Related Topics:  Palestinian Authority
Recent Articles by
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list.


Comment on this item

Email me if someone replies to my comment

Note: Gatestone Institute greatly appreciates your comments. The editors reserve the right, however, not to publish comments containing: incitement to violence, profanity, or any broad-brush slurring of any race, ethnic group or religion. Gatestone also reserves the right to edit comments for length, clarity and grammar. All thoughtful suggestions and analyses will be gratefully considered. Commenters' email addresses will not be displayed publicly. Gatestone regrets that, because of the increasingly great volume of traffic, we are not able to publish them all.