Daily Israel Report

Report: PA Unity Farce Marches On

After months of stalled unity talks and a return to bickering, rocket attacks on southern Israel, Fatah and Hamas are in a farcical limbo.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 7/18/2011, 9:56 PM / Last Update: 7/19/2011, 1:10 AM

Flash 90

The much touted unity agreement signed between rivals Fatah and Hamas has still failed to produce a unity government amdist fierce bickering.
 
Since rival factions Fatah and Hamas announced a reconciliation after four years of often violent fueding following Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, the promised coalition government remains unformed due to disputes over fundamental issues, including who will serve as prime minister.
 
While leaders in both factions have tried to play down the lack of progress and missed deadlines, barbs are being traded daily in Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run media outlets.
 
As a result, what both sides had once called a Mideast game-changer that would put Israel on the ropes, has stalled due to all too familiar political realities and very alive antagonisms.
 
Other goodwill measures, such as mutual prisoner releases, have also gone unfulfilled since May.
 
So frustrated has Hamas become that they have said that the business of government is bad for the 'resistance' and have openly considered stepping back.
 
Last week, Hamas officials slammed Fatah leaders for welcoming the Greek president to the PA administered areas in Judea and Samaria just days after Greece intercepted a Gaza-bound protest flotilla that was dead-set on challenging Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
 
Hamas' Message Loud and Clear
Meanwhile, rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza resumed in force this month for the first time since the unity deal was announced, in what observers see as a slap in the face of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas by Hamas.
 
Previously Hamas, the Islamic terror group that rules Gaza, vowed to curtail such attacks as a sign of cooperation with Fatah, which officially opposes violence against Israel.
 
"People are starting to retreat back into their old habits," Diana Buttu, a former negotiator for the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization, told reporters.
 
"Now it's almost as though there was never any [unity] announcement," Buttu added.
 
So far, neither group is pushing very hard to resume top-level negotiations, which broke down last month in Cairo, but neither side has declared the unity deal to be dead. 
 
"They both seem very comfortable with the situation as it is, with neither full-fledged war nor full-fledged peace," Buttu said.
 
Fear of Pauperism
Each side has its own reason for allowing the unity deal to collapse into a farsical state of limbo, analysts and officials say. 
 
Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has grown increasingly concerned that if he brings Hamas back into his government, he will alienate the US and international community, which provides his already cash-strapped apparatus funding.
 
US lawmakers have threatened to cut financial support to a PA government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel.
 
PA officials also say Abbas also appears concerned about the impact on the statehood-recognition initiative that he has said he will bring before the UN in September.
 
Many Western governments, who are now debating whether to endorse Abbas' bid, classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. 
 
In an attempt to appease international concerns, Abbas is insisting that the new government be led by current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank official who enjoys strong Western backing.
 
Fear of Western Quislings
But Hamas vehemently rejects Fayyad as a "tool" of the US and Europe. 
 
"It's apparent that Abbas is responding to the American pressure," said Mukhaimar Abu Sa'ada, professor of political science at Al Azhar University in Gaza.
 
"Abbas wanted to go united to the United Nations in September, but the American threats made him think twice about finalizing the unity deal with Hamas."