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Blaming the Palestinian split!

Sep 25,2018 - Last updated at Sep 25,2018

The split between the Palestinian administrations in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip has been going on for more than a decade. Repeated "reconciliation" agreements have collapsed and the latest Egyptian-sponsored effort to broker yet another deal has yet to bear fruit.

As I have argued before, there are simply no solid ground for such a reconciliation to take place. And they are still lacking. So why engage in negotiations that are destined to fail, often to the relief of either or both sides?

The simple answer is that each side wants to avoid blame for the failure, since the Palestinian public overwhelmingly wants the split to end. The risk of the negotiations achieving success is simply too low to cause any concern.

Both sides offered concessions. But even with Hamas recently agreeing to surrender its entire authority in Gaza, including control of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, to the Ramallah authority of Mahmoud Abbas and his appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, things have remained motionless.

That is not enough: The stumbling block seems to be related to a Palestinian Authority’s (PA) demand that Hamas and all resistance factions ought to surrender all their weapons, effectively disarming the resistance as has happened in the West Bank, where Israel continues to freely occupy and steal Palestinian land.

The atmosphere remains very tense and hostile, especially given that Abbas' authority imposed cruel sanctions on the 2 million Palestinians besieged in Gaza, Israeli-style collective punishment of an entire community for alleged crimes committed by their leaders.

So the split is indeed deep and difficult to reconcile because the gap between each side's position is too wide to bridge.

The basic irreconcilable problem is that Abbas and his authority remain fully committed to close cooperation with the Israeli occupation, which they call "security coordination", while Hamas remains committed to resistance as a legitimate option to defend Palestinians against frequent savage Israeli attacks. Under such circumstances uniting the two sides is simply impossible.

My point, however, is about how the Palestinian split is generally viewed by experts and analysts.

The split is routinely blamed for all Palestinian misery, including the decline in Palestinian standing internationally, Israel's continued theft of their land, the US decision to award Jerusalem to Israel, the punitive measures against UNRWA and the terrible reported terms of the "deal of the century".

To be fair, such experts do not consider the split as the sole factor for Palestinian misfortune, but what often jumps out are claims to the effect that “if only the Palestinians were not divided. If only the split would end”.

The implication is that the Palestinian situation would be far better if there was no split, but that is untrue. Yes, the split is terrible and should not have happened, but the conditions that led to it were clear and could have been avoided from the beginning. Ideally, Palestinians should be united in their quest for liberation of their land and restoration of their rights.

But the split is in no way responsible for any of the negatives attributed to it.

The poor outcomes of the 25-year "peace process" would not have been any different if the entire Palestinian population was wholeheartedly behind the PA's terrible negotiating strategy. Israel would not have made things easier. The Palestinian situation would not have been any better.

The terms of the infamous "deal of the century" would not be any different. The same can be said about Jerusalem, UNRWA, the attack on Palestinian refugee rights, the declaration of Palestine as the land of the Jewish people and more. Not one of Israel's severe measures against the Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, would be any different if there was no Palestinian split.

Analysts often overlook the reality that Israel was, and still is, opposed to any Palestinian reconciliation. Every time, the risk of reconciliation loomed, Israel and its chorus in the “international community” threatened to boycott any Palestinian government that included Hamas.

That was their approach from the moment Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. It was Israel and its international backers who insisted there could be no Hamas-led government and they threatened to cut off aid and funding. And then they supported what amounted to a coup against Hamas, which led to the split.

This simply attests to the fact that Israel negotiated with the PA only because the split existed. According to this weird logic, the split helped the occurrence of some negotiations, notably between the PA and the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert, which would not have been possible had the Palestinians been reconciled.

To blame the Palestinians for failing to be united or for failing to end the division is one thing, but to blame the division for Israel's crimes and continued occupation is a totally different matter.

The split is a symptom and product of Israeli occupation, colonisation and numerous crimes, not the cause of them.

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