After Gaza, Palestinian reconciliation back on the table
Bad blood between Hamas and Fatah may prove difficult to overcome, though
Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel
The Hamas government in Gaza has decided to pardon citizens involved in lawsuits concerning the political divide with rival movement Fatah, in a move local observers say reopens the road for reconciliation talks between the two Palestinian factions.
“This decision stems from the government’s sense of a need to restore elements of national unity and rise above the internal Palestinian conflict,” Hamas spokesman Taher Nuno told local press on Sunday.
Hamas’s amnesty followed conciliatory language by the Islamic movement toward PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s bid to win UN recognition for a Palestinian nonmember state this Thursday. Initially, Hamas condemned the UN gambit as futile, but it changed its stance so as not to seem allied with the US and Israel, which both oppose the statehood bid.
Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, a year after it won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official from Gaza, told Quds Press news agency that as long as Israel and the United States adamantly opposed the Palestinian UN bid, Hamas would not object to it.
Hamas official Salah Bardawil told Quds Press news agency that as long as Israel and the United States adamantly oppose the Palestinian UN bid, Hamas will not object
He claimed that Abbas did not consult Hamas on the UN gambit and that Hamas would have preferred to see Palestinian unity precede international moves.
“But as long as Abbas chose to go to the UN on his own, Hamas does not want to be part of the opposition which unites Israel and the United States,” he said.
Abbas told a supportive rally in Ramallah Sunday that reconciliation talks with Hamas would recommence immediately following the UN vote on November 29.
“Today [we head to] the UN, and tomorrow we have another task: national reconciliation, which we must achieve,” Abbas told the crowd. “I hope that all pending issues will be resolved so that Gaza enjoys safety, security and stability.”
Abbas said nothing about how he planned to address the main stumbling blocks in talks with Hamas, namely the continuous detainment of Hamas activists in the West Bank and the PA’s security coordination with Israel, which Hamas opposes.
Israel has made repeatedly clear that it would not deal with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas.
Bad blood between the leadership of Hamas and Fatah may also adversely affect reconciliation efforts.
Hamas official Mahmoud A-Zahar told journalists in Gaza Saturday that he had a personal beef with Abbas, who accused him of fleeing Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008.
‘We will not allow the existence of one collaborator in the Gaza Strip. Human rights are for respectable citizens, not for collaborators who have caused disasters’
Zahar said he had filed a lawsuit against Abbas in local courts, which are now free to arrest Abbas upon entry to Gaza “not just because of the accusations he leveled at me, but also because he renounced the right of return and attacked the resistance [Hamas].”
Talk of reconciliation was futile at this time, the Hamas leader added, after Fatah had done everything to thwart it, along with Israel and the United States.
“Heading to the UN is final proof that [Abbas] has given up on the 1948 territories,” he said, referring to current-day Israel which Hamas still claims as part of “Palestine.”
Zahar also backed the summary executions of men suspected of collaboration with Israel, as international criticism mounted against the bloody house-cleaning taking place in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense.
“We will not allow the existence of one collaborator in the Gaza Strip,” Zahar told the journalists. “Human rights are for respectable citizens, not for collaborators who have caused disasters.”