The beginning of the end? The hypothetical future of Palestinian politics

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A masked Qassam Brigades fighter adjusts his AK-47 rifle before sliding into a chair in the Gaza office of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hi Condoleezza Rice. Now you have to meet me. Abu Mazen does not exist. [Abbas] Another one,” the fighter joked in a mock phone call to the then US Secretary of State. Around him, armed Hamas wing fighters took their own photos.

The year is 2007, and Hamas Now a faction fought and beat Abbas Fatah party for control of Gaza.

Fatah They lost the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and were unhappy with the results and attacked the winner, Hamas.

This has caused not only a political fracture but also a geographical one. The Palestinians are divided between the occupied West Bank, which is partially governed by the PA, and Gaza under Hamas.

Palestinians wave a Hamas flag during a rally in Gaza June 15, 2007 to celebrate the takeover of Fatah’s headquarters, including the office of President Abbas. [Suhaib Salem/Reuters]

The situation has been frozen ever since, when the political future of the Palestinians seems more uncertain than ever.

Israel’s purpose for him Current bombing and ground attack The withdrawal of the armed group is a response to the surprise attack by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7 in the Gaza Strip.

If the Israelis succeed, the return of the PA to the troubled region is being talked about as an option. But will it return? And can it?

Gaza under Hamas

Under Hamas, the Gaza Strip has been besieged by Israel for the past 17 years, impoverished by Israel and attacked on five occasions.

With this latest attack, the future of Palestinian politics looks very grim.

Israel has stated that it aims to completely destroy Hamas, which is why it launched an all-out attack on the Gaza Strip on October 7.

Israeli occupation, settler violence and settlement expansion. In the occupied West Bank Izzat al-Rashek, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, said that they were among the reasons why Hamas launched the attack on October 7.

“We warned the Israelis and the international community that this relentless pressure would lead to an explosion, but they did not listen,” al-Rashek told Al Jazeera. Attack on Al-Aqsa Mosquethousands Arrested PalestiniansAnd Blockade on Gaza All played a role.

In the event that Israel is somehow successful in destroying Hamas, the PA has been tipped by the US to take over the besieged territory.

So far Israel has not agreed, but what do the Palestinians think of the PA? Can he return to Gaza? And is it possible to destroy Hamas?

Conflict vs conflict

The main difference between the two main actors in Palestinian politics is their different approaches to the Palestinian cause.

Abu Hamael, a professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said that while their current leaders are one and the same, they are focused on cooperation with Israel, while Hamas’s strategy is to confront Israel militarily.

“There is nothing we can do,” Hamayel said, mimicking the PA’s defeatist tone.

The PA’s support base in the West Bank depends on its trading relationship with Israel, the analyst said. However, some Fatah factions are involved in the armed struggle in the West Bank, the movement is more vocal and diverse than the PA, he said.

Fatah is still in Gaza, now in the opposition. Her supporters there are divided between loyalists to Abbas and former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who has been in exile in the United Arab Emirates for 10 years, Hamayel said.

PA is internationally recognized and receives funding and tax revenues. In return, it administers security in its territory, theoretically freeing Israel from dealing with day-to-day Palestinian life, Hamayel said, unless Israel resists raids and arrests of Palestinians.

Police officers stood guard as Palestinian lawyers protested the Palestinian Authority's declaration and called for a return to normal parliamentary law.
Police officers stand guard as Palestinian lawyers protest against PA rule and demand a return to normal parliamentary rule in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

The question after the war

Fatah wants to unite with Hamas, according to the group’s spokesman, despite several failed attempts to do so over the years.

Fatah spokesman and member of the parliament’s Revolutionary Council, Jamal Nazal, told Al Jazeera: “In the national dialogue, we will reach a consensus on how we should govern ourselves, how we should lead our goals and present them to the world.” .

Kenneth Kathman, a senior fellow at the Sufan Center in New York, said a unified Palestinian state is a U.S. goal, especially as discussions over the fate of Gaza arise after the war.

This entity would control Gaza and the West Bank, accept Israel’s existence and continue the Oslo negotiations with Israel, he said, referring to the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s.

Katzman told Al Jazeera: “I think the goal is to get the talks back to where they were, where Washington will be the first to negotiate a two-state solution.”

Rafe Jabari, a French-Palestinian political science analyst, agreed that a two-state solution should be pursued after the end of the war, but a new agreement should be created to replace the Oslo Accords, as the Palestinians were forced to make too many compromises. Process.

He said that Israel will not give up the lands it has occupied and cannot evict Hamas at will. “Hamas is part of Palestinian society. They cannot destroy Hamas,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that they are not just a political wing.

Hamas agrees. “They cannot fix the house of Palestine to suit themselves. “Hamas will remain, and what will come after Hamas will be Hamas,” Al-Rashek said, adding that Palestinians would not accept “America or Israel or anyone else” when told who would govern them.

“The Palestinian people will never accept an Israeli tank entering Gaza,” he said.

Because it is impossible to destroy Hamas, the group must participate in any post-war negotiations, Jabari said.

“All actors must participate in the resolution of the conflict,” he said, referring to previous negotiations, even when one party is seen as a “terrorist group,” such as the 1962 France-Algeria peace accord or the Recently, in Talks between the US and the Taliban.

A transition period involving an international peacekeeping force in Gaza was mentioned by both Katman and Jabari as a possible first step before negotiations.

But Jabari added, these forces have been the worst failures in recent conflicts.

PA’s popularity is declining.

The PA government in the West Bank is seen by many Palestinians as colluding with Israel.

Most of the frustration is with Abbas, who is seen as weak because he has not been able to advance any peace processes during his nearly twenty years in power, Jabari said. They stated that they did not support enough to oppose Israel’s practices, from the expansion of settlements to harassing the Palestinians.

PA safety practices He has been criticized for being heavy-handed in the occupied West Bank, but Nazal said the PA must “restore order and uphold the law”.

“The activities of the Palestinian security forces or authorities or ordinary individuals sometimes require security coordination with the designated force,” he said, adding that everything the PA manages in the occupied West Bank “must be coordinated with Israel.”

Nazl dissociated Fatah from the PA, saying it was “an independence movement that has nothing to do with Israel.”

Despite the PA’s dismay, Katman said Palestinians who bear the brunt of Israel’s aggression may be upset by Hamas’ actions.

“Most Gazans now understand that Hamas is dragging them into war with Israel, and they don’t want that,” he said. “So I think they are willing to see the mistakes of the Palestinian Authority. I think it is also true for the Palestinians in the West Bank. They do not want war with Israel forever.

However, al-Rashak said, “Palestinians everywhere are more supportive of Hamas.” “They see that Hamas is working to resist the occupation,” he said, adding that international support for the Palestinians has increased in the past few weeks.

‘The beginning of the end’?

With mixed support for the PA among Palestinians, how likely is it to return to rule Gaza?

According to Nazal, despite the rule of Hamas, the PA already runs certain parts of life in Gaza, such as the Ministry of Health and Education and the banking system.

Meanwhile, the Fatah movement opposes the future of Hamas. It was opened on our people,” said Nazel

But what Fatah knows is that the Palestinians must decide who will govern them in a legislative election in a way that ensures the direction of the two countries’ solution, he added.

“The only thing no one has tried is for the Palestinians to live freely in their own state,” Nazel said. “Until that happens, we will continue to go from one cycle of violence to another.”

The US is still pushing. Push for the return of the PA in GazaHowever, and President Joe Biden’s administration’s reasons for this strategy are many, Hamel said.

First, he said, it is buying time for Israel to complete its military activities by distracting the international community.

The analyst said she wants to let his colleague retaliate for the October 7 attack by Hamas, encouraging him to think about what’s next.

The White House also wants to keep its regional allies on the sidelines, especially as Arab countries struggle with their own citizens not doing enough to stop Israeli aggression, Hamel said.

However, the PA invasion will only happen if Hamas is defeated, and the outcome is too early to predict.

Fatah and Hamas officials are expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and representatives of Palestinian groups and movements as part of intra-Palestinian talks.
Fatah and Hamas officials hold talks in Moscow, Russia, February 12, 2019. [File: Pavel Golovkin/Pool via Reuters]

Hamas, for its part, sees the weakness of Israel’s seemingly directionless attacks on civilians.

“The extent of the defeat [on October 7] Made [Israel] He lost his mind and hit in any direction without thinking,” Al-Rashak said. “He failed. He failed on the battlefield when he fought the Qassam Brigades on October 7, and now he is failing because he cannot achieve any real goals in Gaza.

Hamael predicted that if Israel fails to expel Hamas, the conflict between the two Palestinian political groups will intensify.

He said that Hamas would stand up as a brave hero to the Palestinians to fight Israel, and that the PA would be embarrassed by Israel’s cooperation with Israel over the years, making him look weak.

This will start a vicious cycle of the seemingly weak PA encouraging more settler movements in the West Bank, further eroding the group’s control over the territory, he said.

“This could be the beginning of the end of PA,” Hamayel said.

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