If Hamas and Fatah cannot agree on the simplest of things, how can they form a government, let alone create and sustain peace with their neighbors?
Hamas gunmen taking cover during fighting with Fatah in Gaza, June of 2007.
Over the past year I have written extensively about the terrorist organization Hamas. Given the current state of the Middle East, the “Arab Spring” and the upcoming flotilla to Gaza, hopefully all my readers are aware of this group.
For those who are new readers and may just be waking up to the fact that more affects their lives than just the neighborhood in which they live, I offer a little background.
The so-called Palestinian territories consist of Gaza in the southern area of Israel and the West Bank which is to the east of Jerusalem. The two main political movements in these territories are Hamas and Fatah.
In 2006, Hamas, an organization that appears on the U.S. State Department’s “List of foreign terrorist organizations,” won an overwhelming majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. Hamas claimed 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, giving them the right to form the next cabinet of the Palestinian National Authority. The cabinet was to be under the Palestinian Authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah movement.
Fatah, which had dominated the legislature since the previous elections a decade ago (and the Palestinian cause for far longer) won only 45 seats. One of the many differences between these two groups is their view on the state of Israel.
Fatah has been in and out of negotiations with Israel for a two state solution since the days of Yasser Arafat. Hamas, on the other hand, was founded by Islamic militants in 1987 during the first Intifada and still lives by the terms of its charter which calls for the destruction of Israel,
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
In order to explain the events between Hamas and Fatah since the election of 2006 as well as to be unbiased in my reporting I’ll use the media outlet Al Jazeera,
Jan 25, 2006: Hamas defeats Mahmoud Abbas' long-dominant Fatah party in parliamentary polls.
March: Hamas government sworn in, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, after Fatah refuses to join. Western backers including the US and European Union say Hamas is a "terrorist" organization and refuse to recognize group as the legitimate winner.
September: Abbas and Haniyeh announce agreement to form a unity administration, but talks flounder over what the new cabinet's stance will be towards Israel. Abbas's Fatah movement supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist. Their disagreements lead to violence on the streets of Gaza.
October: A number of mediation conferences are held. Egypt and Qatar send their foreign ministers to meet with both sides. Other Palestinian groups such as the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mediate between the two sides to stop the clashes.
November: Following talks between Hamas and Fatah, both sides agree to form a unity government.
December: Abbas calls for new elections as a solution to the ongoing crisis.
February 2007: Fighting between Hamas and Fatah factions intensifies in Gaza, with Hamas overrunning compounds used by Abbas's security forces. The two sides then agree on a deal in Mecca, in the hope that Western powers will lift crippling sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government. Haniyeh and his cabinet resign, but he is re-appointed by Abbas and begins the process of forming a new Palestinian unity government.
March: The Palestinian unity government takes office, but Hamas says it will not halt rocket fire against Israel, as proposed by Abbas, after the Jewish state vows to press ahead with its attacks on Gaza.
June: Battle of Gaza begins, resulting in Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah, who stay in control of the occupied West Bank. At least 100 people are killed in the heavy fighting. Abbas dismisses the Palestinian government and declares a state of emergency.
November: George Bush, the then US president, hosts peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis at Annapolis, Maryland, while Hamas still holds control over Gaza.
January 2008: Israel steps up military actions on Gaza and Hamas, killing seven Palestinians. Ehut Olmert, the then Israeli PM, vows to respond to continuing rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel continues incursions into Gaza, leaving Palestinians in a humanitarian crisis without fuel, power, food and water.
December 2008: Israel launches Operation Cast Lead, a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups. Some 1,400 Palestinians are killed, many of them civilians. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declare separate unilateral ceasefires.
January 2009: Abbas' term as president ends, but vows to stay in power until parliamentary and presidential elections can be held simultaneously.
February 2009: Egypt pushes Fatah and Hamas to hold reconciliation talks to create a unity government that would allow for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections.
April 2009: The two groups suspend reconciliation talks for three weeks after failing to agree on a unity government.
September 2010: Round of direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership begins. The talks collapse in the same month after Israel refuses to extend the freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.
May 3, 2011: Unity deal between Fatah and Hamas signed in attempt to end feud between the two groups, which remain divided between the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank. The deal involves members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committee and Hamas.
May 4, 2011: Fatah and Hamas leaders, Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, gather in Cairo to mark the reconciliation agreement.
Simply put, these two groups, Fatah and Hamas cannot even reach an agreement with one another. As I explained in a previous article with video proof, the battle over Gaza was a bloody civil war that had Hamas lining up Fatah members and its supporters against walls to be shot with automatic weapons, as well as being thrown from roof tops.
But after the start of the Arab Spring and the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak it seemed that these two rival factions were actually going to form a unity government. That is, until June 12 when as the Jerusalem Post reported,
The Egyptian-brokered reconciliation accord between Hamas and Fatah suffered a major setback on Sunday when the Islamist movement announced its opposition to the appointment of current Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of a new Palestinian unity government.
The Hamas official said that Fayyad was also responsible for the arrest of Hamas supporters in the West Bank, and for the firing of many civil servants for political reasons.
Hamas leaders said that they would raise the issue during the Cairo talks on Tuesday and would insist on the release of all “political prisoners” from PA jails.
So, Hamas planned on raising “the issue during the Cairo talks on Tuesday” and they “would insist on the release of all political prisoners”, but that was only until June 15 when it was reported,
Two sides reach agreement on release of political detainees held in West Bank and Gaza prisons; Abbas and Mashaal to meet, decide on PM.
Quoting informed Egyptian sources, the Al-Jazeera TV network claimed that the two parties agreed on who would head the unity government and that his identity would be made public next week.
Now it seems that the two had reached an agreement on the prisoners as well as who would head the government and his name would be announced next week. That only lasted a few days as it all came to head yesterday.
Now, the whole meeting has been called off once again as explained by Haaretz,
Palestinian officials say a high-profile meeting between the leaders of the rival Fatah and Hamas movements has been called off.
Tuesday's meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal had been expected to name the prime minister over an emerging reconciliation government.
But officials from both sides acknowledge there are still disagreements over who the prime minister will be. They say the meeting has been postponed indefinitely.
“Postponed indefinitely”? And all this after such a wonderful and meaningful track record of working together?
Hamas was born out of Yasser Arafat’s P.L.O. (Palestinian Liberation Organization) because they weren’t “militant” enough. Saying that the P.L.O. isn’t militant enough is akin to saying the Pope isn’t Catholic enough.
Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and its right to exist and what is more they are bent on its destruction.
When Hamas couldn’t gain control of the P.A. (Palestinian Authority) through talks and diplomatic means after the 2006 election, they did what they know best, they attacked and murdered their own, fellow Palestinians, until they gained control of Gaza.
These two groups can not even agree on the most basic aspect of the accord they had agreed to back in May, the establishment of a unity government that would consist of independent figures in order to prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections, which were be held within one year.
How does anyone, the European Union, the U.S. or the U.N. even begin to fathom that either Fatah or Hamas can make peace with Israel while they still can’t even sit at the same table with each other?
Thanks to President Obama and his administration the world now insists that Israel go back to its indefensible 1949 lines. That is, as the joke says, such a deal.
As a very important side note, one thing occurred during the time line noted above that Al-Jazeera conveniently left out was that on June 25, 2006 Hamas militants and other gunmen launched a raid into Israel from Gaza, killing two soldiers and capturing an Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Next Saturday, Gilad will have been a captive of Hamas for 5 years. As Father’s Day just passed we need to remember that Gilad’s father Noam Shalit is still waiting, like the rest of his family, his mother Aviva Shalit, along with an older brother, a younger sister and girlfriend Ya'ara Winkler for Gilad to be returned home.
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