Israeli teen kidnapping proves Palestinian unity is impossible

Despite recent weeks when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas seemed to be making genuine progress on forming a unity government, the tragic and indefensible kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank is the latest event to serve as a reminder that Hamas-Fatah unification is impossible.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility for orchestrating the abductions of 19-year old Eyal Yifrach and 16-year olds Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel as they reportedly hitchhiked home from their religious schools located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank on 12 June.

But Hamas’ subsequent actions and incitement - and the Palestinian Authorities’ support for the Israeli operation to bring back the three teenagers - underscores the irreconcilable differences between the two Palestinian groups.

Israel’s blaming of Hamas for the abductions was swift and public with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicating it was an absolute fact Hamas was responsible; in the one week period since the boys went missing, the Israeli military launched a sweeping operation in the West Bank, titled, “Bring back our brothers,” leading to the arrest of at least 280 Palestinians with alleged ties to Hamas - at least 50 of whom were reportedly released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011.

Causing tensions

The IDF also raided multiple Hamas affiliated organizations including the al-Aqsa radio stations’ offices in both Hebron and Ramallah as well as several other Hamas-linked institutions in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. The crackdown and rearresting of freed prisoners has caused tensions between security forces and Palestinians - predictably - to skyrocket across the West Bank.

Hamas remains committed to terrorism and the PA’s decision to unify with them makes them complicit in such acts

Brooklyn Middleton

Notably however, security cooperation between the IDF and the PA has proven solid during this - much to the disgust of Hamas officials. Further, the operation appears unlikely to end in the near term, with the IDF vowing it would “continue to deliver a strong blow to Hamas and strike down anything that is related to Hamas.”

In retaliation for the crackdown, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired at least 15 rockets at southern Israel in the past seven days with the Israeli Air Force responding as expected with air strikes, injuring at least several people.

The significance of the PA’s and Hamas’ actions during this period are twofold; firstly, the fact that the PA has cooperated to such a high degree with the IDF in the West Bank as it rounds up Hamas militants is indicative that sustained Israel-PA security cooperation isn’t just a remote possibility but a current reality.

Basic tenets

Secondly, it proves that even amid renewed efforts to reconcile, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas fail to agree even on the most basic tenets of governance.

While in the past the two groups have failed to reach unity due to both sides ultimately seeking dominance, the missing Israeli teenagers have forced the PA and Hamas to publicly review their positions on cooperation with Israeli security forces - and it is evident they still feel a little differently about the matter.

Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s initial lambasting of the PA - accurately pointing out that Hamas remains committed to terrorism and the PA’s decision to unify with them makes them complicit in such acts - President Abbas stood in front of the Arab world in Saudi Arabia condemning the abductions. “Those who perpetrated this act want to destroy us…The three young men are human beings just like us and must be returned to their families.”

President Abbas’ statements should not go unacknowledged especially as Hamas continues lashing out with senior official Salah Bardawil threatening that launching a third intifada remains an “irrevocable right.” Abbas again was clear in his rejection of such violence stating, “I say it frankly, we will never have another intifada — that would destroy us.” An assertion that Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri indicated was “based solely on the Israeli narrative.”

As Hamas and the PA continue disagreeing over very basic issues of governance and security, it is increasingly likely recent attempts at unification will once again spiral into nothingness.

Meanwhile, continued IDF and PA combined efforts could prove effective at uncovering the location of the missing Israeli teenagers and at the same time increase the likelihood of future negotiations and peace talks due to this level of cooperation. But Abbas must take this a step further and once again distinguish his party from Hamas politically and end the absurd attempts at reconciliation with the militant group.


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Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:53 - GMT 10:53
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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