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PA Drifting into Two States

Fatah-Hamas negotiations at impasse, Abbas accused of ousting PLO veterans; January elections thus appear unlikely. Two states for one (PA) people?
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/19/2009, 1:21 PM

Fatah-Hamas negotiations at an impasse, Abbas accused of ousting PLO veterans, January elections thus appear unlikely. Two states for one (PA) people?

Egyptian-brokered talks between Hamas and Fatah for a unified Palestinian Authority government have broken down, and some say they will not be renewed in the near future. Egypt blames both sides, though attributes more responsibility for the impasse to Fatah, led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.  Egypt announced on Sunday, however, that it still hopes to have an agreement finalized by August 25.

Fatah and Hamas fought a short war in 2007, by the end of which Hamas had taken over control of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has since then functioned as two entities from many standpoints: Hamastan in Gaza, and Fatahland in Judea/Samaria. The most recent battle between forces of the two sides resulted in six dead in the Fatah-controlled city of Kalkilye: two Hamas terrorists, three Fatah security men, and a bystander.

Fatah currently demands that Hamas allow 15,000 Fatah security forces to return to Gaza. Hamas refuses, though it says it will consider allowing them to return gradually. Hamas, for its part, demands that the current term of the PA legislature – in which Hamas has a majority, but which has been all but neutralized for the past two years – be extended.

Accusation: You Tried to Kill Us
In addition, a top Hamas leader, Mahmoud a-Zahar, said on Friday that Hamas forces had uncovered a Fatah plan to kill Hamas leaders. A-Zahar was speaking at a Gaza mosque during Friday prayers.

Another factor in the equation is last week’s decision by Abbas to close down the Al-Jazeera TV station in Ramallah. Abbas did not like Al-Jazeera’s repeated broadcast of accusations that Abbas had had a hand in the death of PLO founder Yasser Arafat.

Arab affairs expert Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine that Farouk Kadoumi, who leveled the accusations against Abbas, “apparently felt threatened by Abbas’ decision to convene a Fatah conference next month that will replace the old guard with younger faces such as Marwan Barghouti [imprisoned in Israel for five murder convictions – ed.], Hussein A-Sheikh, and Muhammed Dahlan.”

Saudi Paper Critical of Abbas
The Saudi newspaper A-Sharq al-Aussat expressed criticism of Abbas for this move – and for setting the agenda of the upcoming conference to deal more with building up the PA and less with fighting Israel. The paper says that the internal Fatah split is likely to cost it its preeminence and influence within the Palestinian Authority.

More Violence Predicted
“I foresee the breakout of more violence between Fatah and Hamas in the coming weeks,” Ben-Menachem predicted. “As it appears now, the conflict between them is far from over.”