Palestinian reconciliation: Of newspapers and a couple of houses

Knowing that it is a temporary agreement, we hope that it lasts as long as possible so that both parties achieve what they want

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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West Bank newspapers controlled by the Palestinian Authority were allowed to be sold in Gaza and Hamas’s government handed over two houses that it had occupied: the first was the house of Mahmoud Abbas and the second was the villa of the late President Yasser Arafat.

The two houses were given to Ramallah’s government in light of the reconciliation between the two parties. We are all happy about the reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, hoping that it will be more than just selling newspapers and returning two stolen houses to their owners. We actually fear that this reconciliation will be to no avail.

Knowing that it is a temporary agreement, we hope that it lasts as long as possible so that both parties achieve what they want: money from Fatah and silence from Hamas

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Both parties are founded on different convictions but they are not against each other. Refined expressions like “national unity government” are merely like make-up; they quickly fade away as long as both parties do not open up to each other before negotiating. Due to its erroneous interference in the conflict in Egypt, Hamas is facing financial bankruptcy and needs the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of its employees and cover its electricity and water bills. Hamas has lost most of its revenues due to the external siege against it. The current Egyptian regime considers Hamas to be part of the conflict over rule in Cairo; therefore, it closed Sinai and its tunnels in front of Hamas’s members.

President Hosni Mubarak had disregarded Hamas’s tunnels and its funding, and adopted a policy that harmonized the ties with Ramallah and Israel. The Palestinian Authority needs the reconciliation because it is conducting negotiations and is on the verge of a political solution with Israel. These negotiations need to be covered by Hamas, as a third partner in this project. Hamas, however, will not give up on its authority in Gaza no matter what was said or promised regarding a technocratic government. It will keep on controlling the police, collecting money from the borders, and will only allow Abbas’s government to collect debris from the streets. The situation will be the same in Ramallah: the government of Mahmoud Abbas will keep on control over the interior and finance ministries.

An unproductive marriage

This is why this reconciliation is an unproductive marriage. The relationship will loiter until this temporary love ends or until one party takes over the other, or even until Hamas decides to permanently separate Gaza from the West Bank. Ironically, talks about establishing two states –Israeli and Palestinian states – on the Palestinian land, faded away and turned out to be about the establishment of two Palestinian states, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It seems that the situation will remain the same for a long time.

The reason for questioning the stance of both parties towards true reconciliation, and their ability to recover under the frame of the Palestinian government, is that the frame has never existed. Gaza, ever since it became under the authority of the Hamas government, began to gradually become independent until the day, seven years ago, when Hamas’ militias took over police stations and the rest of the security apparatus. We all saw how they killed Fatah police officers, throwing them off the roofs. This coup fragmented Palestine. All attempts to bridge the gap and reconcile the Palestinian family, were faced with heinous acts. Who can forget the awful scene, when Hamas security officers undressed PA prisoners and drove them inside the Israeli borders, feeding the enemy’s gloat. It is a disgraceful act that Israelis have not dared to do. Ironically, those who were molested were lucky because the rest are still in Hamas jails.

This is certainly from the past, but the perpetrators are still alive and are still engaged unashamed in their daily work in Gaza. The national unity government will not succeed because it is a hypocritical project, unless both parties decided to talk about all the differences and not leap over them, and unless they decided to reconcile recognizing past mistakes and establishing an integral system, under which financial and security prerogatives are solely in the hand of the authorities.

Knowing that it is a temporary agreement, we hope that it lasts as long as possible so that both parties achieve what they want: money from Fatah and silence from Hamas. Unfortunately, 66 years after the establishment of Israel, Palestinian leaderships are still unable to agree on a single system. How will they be able to convince the world and face the Jewish state? They have not learned from the Israeli model, which includes all the colors and parties, communists and religious people abiding to one democratic political system, regardless of their opinions or attitudes. A system that is firm to the extent that former Prime Minister Olmert was imprisoned for seven years, because he was involved in bribery.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 17, 2014.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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