By Mohammed S. AlNadi
A new Hamas-only government was sworn in at the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza Sunday, with Ismail Haniyeh continuing as prime minister but with some cabinet reshuffling. A day earlier, Fatah had opened the registration for local elections in the West Bank.
This news came in as no surprise to Palestinians who have already been in big doubts that any reconciliation will ever be reached. Such farcical unilateral moves are yet another round of the deliberate stall that only deepens the rift and further exposes the ill intentions and vindictive attitudes between both parties, and the deviation from working towards establishing a unified national front. They manifest how irresponsible the Palestinian “leadership” is, and how the interest of Palestinians is the last thing they would think about.
Earlier this year, general elections had been scheduled to take place on October 23. However, this is not the first time the PA has set a date for elections, but every time, an excuse would be made up for these elections not to take place – a clear indicator that reconciliation is not at all a priority to both of them.
Unwilling to Achieve Unity
Ever since the elections held in 2006 in which Hamas won the Parliament by a landslide over Fatah, and the bloody infighting which claimed the lives of many Palestinians on both sides that followed, the state of division has been widely growing, and it’s only the Palestinians who never cease to pay dearly as a result of both sides’ vengeful acts that mounted to salary suspensions—such as fanaticism-based snitching among both parties’ loyalists, more present in Gaza—arrests, tortures, restrictions on freedoms and press freedom, and even the closure of some youth and community development organizations, like when the Hamas government shut down Sharek Youth Forum, which used to provide thousands of job opportunities to thousands of jobless Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip.
Indeed, these sequels have added so much to the daily suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation. And obviously, only Israel is benefitting from this by going on with its repressive policies against Palestinians, while both sides are divided and cannot agree upon a national consensus.
The status quo in both Gaza and the West Bank helps sustain disunity among Hamas and Fatah. Both are trying to build a financial stability while moving away from serving the interests of the Palestinians. On the one hand, Hamas seems to be content with the economic situation in Gaza, since it collects large revenues from controlling the tunnel network, and it doesn’t pay neither for Gaza’s electricity nor for about 60,000 PA employees, let alone the outside donations it receives from different Arab countries, making things quite easy to handle in the Strip. On the other hand, the PA is financially staggering in the West Bank, embezzling whatever money comes from taxes or abroad for the trappings of the entourage, while claiming to be building an institutionalized Palestinian state. But in fact the economic situation in the West Bank is bad, prices are going up, and unemployment among Palestinians there is on the increase, not to mention the humiliation Palestinians suffer there as a result of “the security coordination” with Israel. Unemployment too is soaring among Palestinian in Gaza, especially among thousands of youth who graduate every year.
The future of the reconciliation and how it overlaps with the issue of a Palestinian state
Meanwhile, possibilities of reconciliation do not exist; Palestinians have largely grown hopeless about the endlessly useless talk about reconciliatory negotiations, and some even view it as a fantasy.
Even youth endeavors are not welcome. I still remember when groups of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank took to the streets only holding the Palestinian flag as a sign of unity on March 15 last year to peacefully protest and call on both sides to end the internal division. I was there. And I saw how the government in Gaza put out the outing and met protestors with violence. A lot of my friends and other participants got beaten up and were later summoned for questioning at internal security centers.
The fact that reconciliation will not be achievable saddens me as it makes us too way behind even thinking about a Palestinian state, and, looking at the broader picture, it in fact hinders any attempt towards establishing one. One may argue that ending the division has nothing to do with building a Palestinian state as long as there is occupation. Well, at least with disunity coming to an end, things definitely would become much better regarding the social and economical structure in the Palestinian society, and probably in terms of shaping dealings with Israel. And let’s hypothetically suppose that Israel agreed to a Palestinian state on 1967 borders with the PA, how would this state look like with the current state of disunity? And I’m sure the “leadership” in Ramallah would exclude the government in Gaza and view it as a personal accomplishment.
The factual impression that most Palestinians have about the PA is of relevance too; after the so many years wasted on futile “peace talks” with Israel, they feel they have been betrayed and no longer accept it as a legitimate representational body. Well, the government in Gaza is much better in this regard, considering their short course of political work. However, the Palestinians don’t have much faith in the government in Gaza too.
Unfortunately the impasse between both entities seems beyond remedy, and change is needed more than ever. But the important question that is automatically raised is that: what would possible solutions or alternatives to the status quo be? I have heard and seen many initiatives, such as Facebook pages, triggered by Palestinian youth calling for the dismantlement of the PA and supporting a coup against the government in Gaza, and probably having a third party assigned by the people as an alternative. But the question whether or not this would be possible remains open.
– Mohammed S. AlNadi is the Coordinator of the English Language Institute (ELI) at The Islamic University of Gaza (IUG). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.