Friday, September 05, 2014

Fatah – Hamas relations- where do they heading to?

One of the surprises – that maybe should not have been a surprise – was the quick collapse of the Fatah-Hamas relations after the war. Although latest reports from this morning are telling us that talks in Cairo between Israel and united Palestinian delegations are close to re-start- on the ground the two parties are persecuting each other- Hamas persecutes Fatah in Gaza and Fatah persecutes Hamas in the West Bank.
An evidence of the deterioration of relations can be found in two protocols that were published in the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar – one last week and one this morning that tell it all. In the first protocol- angry Abu Mazen accuses Mash'al in planning a coup d'état in the West Bank. The second protocol exposed an attempt to cool down the angry spirit of the first one- but exposes the deep differences between Fatah and Hamas regarding the next step in Gaza and the overall policies in general. What Abu Mazen may be bothered as well is the discovery that the USA secretary of state John Kerry is deeply involved with Qatar on the solution for Gaza and even exchanges messages with Khaled Mash'al through the Emir of Qatar- but in the protocols there is no clear reference to any PLO reservation of the possible triangle: Kerry-Emir Tamim-Khaled Mash'al, but for sure it is a major concern that tighten Ramallah's relations with Cairo that is facing the same challenge of USA keeping preference to Moslem Brothers in Egypt and Libya. Saeb Areiqat admitted that USA relations with Ramallah are "not stable"- متحوّلة عنّا as he put it- but Israel must pay attention to another reference of Areiqat to Kerry. He said: ( "when we told him about our plan) he said: ــــ عريقات: كيري قال لي Ok.. Go ahead. Mash'al was surprised and asked: is this all arranged with Kerry beforehand- and the ceasefire as well? ــــ مشعل: يعني هذا الكلام كله مرتب مع كيري وأيضاً موضوع التهدئة؟!
Abu Mazen replied- "not the ceasefire" ــــ عباس: لا مش موضوع التهدئة. that meant the steps in the UN are agreed with Kerry but not the ceasefire in Gaza. So, based on this protocol Kerry is coordinating with Mash'al behind the backs of Ramallah, and coordinating with Ramallah behind the backs of Israel.
In the basis of Fatah Hamas mutual suspicion is the mutual conviction in both sides – Hamas perceives the presence of Abu Mazen's people in Rafah crossing as the beginning of a Fatah takeover of Gaza while Abu Mazen is convinced that Hamas is preparing coup d'état in the West Bank. Fatah suspicions of Hamas were clearly, and angrily, detailed in the first protocols, but were implied also in the second.
When Abu Mazen detailed his plan for the future, Mash'al told him: those are general broad lines. We want to hear the details and the details Mash'al wanted to hear about were: seaport, airport but above all the salaries to Hamas employees. Abu Mazen did not have answers to seaport and airport—but about the salaries- he refused to pay them under the pretext that the Palestinian Authority had no money. If this is the case- said Mash'al – not verbally, but in this meaning – we cannot employ the accord government. It was clear in so many words that as long as the salaries to Hamas personnel are not paid the old Hamas government stays in place. For Hamas the refusal to pay the salaries on the one hand and spreading Ramallah's personnel along the borders of Gaza meant the beginning of the deposal of Hamas and a Fatah takeover of Gaza. So, to confront this scenario Mash'al put forwards another principle: "the partnership". He demanded that Hamas will participate in the PLO foreign policy, that meant disapproval of Abu Mazen strategy because it was decided alone, and be part of West Bank polity. To Abu Mazen's ears it can have only one meaning: Mash'al challenging Fatah's hegemony in the West Bank and putting himself as forerunner to West Bank leadership.
The answer was given on the ground- intensifying the crackdown on Hamas and its sympathizers in the West Bank.
While Mash'al is a descendant of the West Bank- he was born in a village near Ramallah-
Hamas Gaza leadership has another perspective. Hamas site in Gaza rose earlier this week a criticism to Abu Mazen policy that it put the onus on the West Bank concerns and forgot Gaza. This criticism can be also true towards Mash'al that also gave priority to his role in the West Bank. He of course talked a lot on Gaza – but when he arrived to the "bottom-line"- his equality to Fatah in the West Bank meant much to him but meant nothing to Gaza leadership that does not care about the West Bank.
In this regards Mash'al again raised his acceptance to a solution based on 1967 borders, and here again Abu Mazen could have found an echo to the Hamas-USA channel through Qatar. Moreover- the PLO can even suspect that Israel is running also backchannels with Hamas… no limit to conspiracy theories in the Middle East…