Fatah and Hamas: Reconciliation or divorce?

There are manifold reasons that make it so difficult to effect a compromise between the two movements and they involve every aspect of Palestinian Arab life. They do agree on Israel.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, | updated: 22:08

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Eliran Aharon

Islamic law differentiates between tlak raji, a revocable divorce that can be cancelled and tlka baan, a final, not-cancellable divorce. Islamic legal experts are familiar with the kind of marital conflicts that can be brought to an end by expending a reasonable amount of effort,  leading to reconciliation and renewed harmony, as opposed to a couple whose negative feelings are too deeply entrenched for there to be hope of their ever living together peacefully. One of the ways to sense the situation between a couple is to listen to what they say about one another and also pay attention to the "background music" that accompanies what is said.

Ever since the Hamas movement's takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, more than 11 years ago, this writer has been saying that the divorce between: Hamas and Fatah, the Gaza government and the PA, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas heads Khaled Meshaal, Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar – is a final one. All the Palestinian Arab, Egyptian and Jordanian attempts to effect a reconciliation between the two sides have failed dismally and will continue to do so. If the sides ever achieve a reconciliation agreement, it will consist of a signed agreement, but no reconciliation.

There are manifold reasons that make it impossible to effect a compromise between the two movements and they involve every aspect of Palestinian Arab life. Ideologically, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an organization which vehemently opposed the nationalism that found its way into the Arab world at the start of the 20th century. The MB sees nationalism as a betrayal of Islam, because nationalists believe that a nation is more important than religious belief, so that if you are Arab it does not matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Druze, Alawite or a member of any other religion,  The "Brothers," in contrast, believe that "Allah is our only goal, the prophet is our model, the Koran our constitution, Jihad our way of life, and to die for Allah fulfillment of our most exalted wish."

Nationalist considerations are relative and subject to change as conditions vary, while religious considerations are permanent, absolute and subject only to the word of the deity. Fatah, a nationalist movement, changes its opinions in line with practical possibilities: When it was founded towards the end of the 1950s, Fatah’s stated goal was to destroy the Israel whose armistice line borders were set at the end of the War of independence, but now it claims to accept Israel within those borders and wishes to free the areas Israel conquered in 1967 (Judea and Samaria). Hamas, on the other hand, sees no way to allow the State of Israel to exist at all

Hamas’ viewpoint stems from Islam’s three-pronged approach:

1. Judaism’s era is over (din batal) and thus there is no need for a state

2. The Jews are not one nation, but disparate communities of people who are part of whatever state in which they find themselves, so that they have no need for a state of their own. They are meant to be second rate subjects in Muslim lands, known as dhimmi.

3. Palestine is holy to Muslims all over the world and no one has the right to give any part of it to the Jews.

Fatah and Hamas are thus on opposite sides of the ideological scale, with no chance of uniting them. The most that can be aspired for is to create or find a common agenda allowing them to built a wide and flexible framework that can contain both. That, naturally, depends on the good will and abilities of their leaders and the points on which they agree.

Looking at the history of the two organizations from Hamas’ founding in 1987, one observes a very small number of instances when both sides agreed on a joint framework. In fact, for over thirty years, the two groups worked separately and were hostile to one another during most of that time; Even their shared hatred for Israel and their desire to destroy the Jewish state, which should bring them together, has not led to reconciliation.

The deep rooted cultural differences between the two entities became clear to everyone when the two signed a reconciliation agreement in 2017. In the photos, Fatah and PA representatives are sporting suits and ties while Hamas delegates are not. The reason for the difference is simple: Fatah and the PA are trying to build a modern western image for themselves, while Hamas refuses to be influenced by western culture, which in its viewpoint is the antithesis of Islam. That is another reason that the agreement was duly signed, but the reconciliation did not take place.

 Let's have a look at what the two sides say in public about one another to understand what their real feelings are;

As this article is being written, the Hamas-affiliated Palestine-info website has as its main headline the story of the Gaza baby who died because the PA Health Ministry refused to allot the 30,000 dollars needed for medical intervention that might have saved his life. It is accompanied by a large and clear photograph, not blurred, of the baby while he was still alive. The message here is that the PA, not only Israel, is responsible for children dying in Gaza. This is published on the backdrop of PA  corruption, so that an additional message is that PA leadership has chosen to preserve the millions of stolen public funds to be found in its personal Swiss bank accounts rather than spend a trifling sum to save a Palestinian baby's life.

In April 2017, Hamas legislature member Marwan abu Ras, said the following in front of the news cameras (my additions in parentheses, M.K.).  

"If Abbas doesn't want want Gaza, let him refrain from taking a cent from Gaza. They (the PA leadersihp) tell us that we have to choose between total responsibility for Gaza (run it by yourselves without any help from us) and handing over total control to us (letting the PA run every aspect of our lives). Okay, Sir (Abbas), we will choose total control of Gaza, but why are you taking our money? Why do you take Gaza's money? Why do you take Gaza's taxes (taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA in line with the 1995 Paris Agreement)? Why do you take the money that comes from the countries that donate funds for Gaza? There is a (PA) lying media chorus that manufactures lies for the (consumption of the Palestinian) people and for the (Arab and Islamic) nations, falsifies facts – ….for a (monetary) price they have adopted treasonous positions vis a vis this nation."

"Abbas has placed himself on the highest rung of betrayal and collaboration (with the Zionists). He has brought about his own certain elimination as well as that of his (political) ideas and has abandoned our people and our cause because all he does is engage in treachery and collaboration with the enemy. Abbas must be brought to judgment by the people, legally, in the center of Gaza and have it announced that his sentence is death by hanging in front of (the eyes of) his people, because he is the worst traitor the Palestinian cause has ever known."

The Palestinian Authority, too, does not mince words when talking about Hamas. In March 2018, the PA prime minister and the head of his security detail came to Gaza. Just as they entered the Strip a terrorist bomb exploded near their car and slightly injured them. Abbas responded by saying: "This will not blow over (without a response). That's why when Hamas says 'we are investigating' or 'not investigating' we (the PA) say 'we have no need of your investigation and information, we know full well that Hamas was behind the despicable incident."

What is important for us to realize is that Abbas is saying that political murder was born with Hamas, meaning it is part of the genetic makeup of the organization. Historically that is patently untrue, because there were political assassinations before Hamas took control of Gaza, which it did while murdering tens of PA security personnel. Abbas' statement stems from personal experience: He visited Gaza in April 2007 and was almost killed in a terrorist attack in which one of his bodyguards was shot dead by a bullet to his head. He was officially the chairman of Gaza as well as Judea and Samaria in 2014 when Hamas terrorists eliminated over 30 people at a mosque in Rafiah.  

PA spokesmen accuse Hamas of betraying the Palestinian cause by dividing the territory in question into two – Gaza and the 'West Bank,' -- handing Israel a permanent excuse for refusing to agree to a Palestinian Arab state that would soon turn into Hamastan in Judea and Samaria as was the case in Gaza. Hamas accuses the PA of pretending to want reconciliation only to gain control of its arms and hand its arsenal over to Israel even though these weapons are meant to liberate Falestin.

Hamas is vehemently opposed to handing over Gaza's defense portfolio in any agreement, because of fears that the ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the PA will force the PA to destroy the Hamas rocket arsenal, give Israel information about the tunnels and possibly, at Israel's demand, destroy them.

The significance of Palestinian Arab reconciliation in accord with the PA's conditions means that Hamas gives up all the military and political possessions it has garnered for years and remains with only the hope of winning the next elections to the Palestinian legislature and the executive positions. Unfortunately, Hamas well remembers what happened when it received most of the seats in the 2006 elections for the legislature. Hamas won and put together a government with ministers to its liking, but the PA people refused to leave the offices that had been theirs before they lost the elections. Hamas is afraid that this scenario is going to repeat itself.

In conclusion, there  is too much bad blood coursing in the arteries of the Hamas-PLO conflict, too many personal, ideological, religious and cultural vendettas that prevent  both sides from finding common ground upon which to build a consensus. Anyone who talks about a reconciliation agreement in the near future is ignoring the extent of the yawning cultural, ideological, political and personal gap that separates the two sides. My conclusion was reached after Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 at which time I said that any reconciliation would be worth approximately the cost of the paper on which it was written. If in the distant future, a drastic ideological and cultural change takes place in both organizations, perhaps they might bridge that gap.

A few words about Iran

At  the beginning of the week, the Iranian parliament deposed  the Economy Minister because of his 'failure to administer the country's economy,' this on the backdrop of the tightening American sanctions, the fall of  the country's currency, the rise in unemployment and the international companies' abandonment of Iran. On Tuesday this week, President Rouhani said "that many Iranians have lost faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and have doubts about its strength."

In Syria, Iran acts as if business is as usual, a mutual defense agreement was signed by Iran and Syria, Iranian soldiers are settling down in Syria and even the Russians have ceased talking about the exodus of the 'foreign powers'. Except that when what is going on backstage in the Ayatollah's regime is getting more and more complicated, the day is not far off when the Iranian soldiers will say farewell to Syria in order to preserve the integrity of the heads resting on the necks of their rulers, lest the knives of those who "have lost faith in the future of the Islamic Republic" get there first.

Translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva Op-ed and Judaism Editor.

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