By REUVEN BERKO
(JNS.org) — After Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives met in Egypt for the umpteenth time, it seemed they were finally ready to issue conciliatory tidings. Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV station, which is affiliated to Hezbollah, reported that the last meeting in Cairo, mediated by Egyptian intelligence officials, produced a breakthrough and that long-awaited reconciliation was imminent.
The statement included a laconic message that Hamas had agreed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ demand to let his Ramallah-based government operate in Gaza in accordance with understandings reached in 2017. This, on condition that the PA lift the economic sanctions it has imposed on Gaza.
Within the framework of these understandings, Hamas demanded the immediate establishment of a national unity government, comprising all Palestinian factions and organizations, within 45 days. This government would implement previously agreed-to steps and, within an allotted time frame, elections would be held – which Hamas is certain it will win.
A senior PA official described Hamas’ situation as untenable, which is why it accepted the conditions for reconciliation. However, mere hours after the Egyptian statement, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk tweeted an ultimatum: The temporary Palestinian government headed by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah would not be the body to spearhead the implementation of the agreement “because it is a fundamental part of the problem, and worse – it created the problem.” As a reminder, during the previous attempt at reconciliation, Hamas tried assassinating Hamdallah in Gaza and solving the problem that way.
The celebration, therefore, was premature. The PA wants to postpone elections as much as possible but wants to immediately assume control of Gaza and the weapons there. The collision was head-on. Despite the efforts of Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, the meeting was destined for failure.
Hamas, however, deeply mired in Gaza’s ruins, understood it had failed to achieve its fundamental vision of liberation Palestine – the missiles and tunnels – in which it invested the majority of the funds it received from Gulf emirates. The collapsed vision of an Islamic empire, on which Hamas had largely relied to complete its puzzle, hit the group especially hard. Unlike its terrorist sister groups, such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, Hamas is responsible for the welfare of the people of Gaza and its failings are evident in every open sewer, disease and drop of contaminated water, lack of electricity, fuel and medicine, rampant unemployment and hunger. In their desperation, Hamas leaders have pinned their hopes on the United Nations and on donations from Europe, Turkey, Qatar, Iran and who else. They can hear the impending implosion ticking away like a time bomb. The dead end, from the direction of Arab countries that are “normalizing relations with Israel,” has relegated Hamas to begging. Even the cost of its survival (money and fuel from Qatar) was humiliatingly transferred via the Zionist enemy.
The inter-Palestinian reconciliation is analogous to a death from a thousand cuts. The Gaza Strip and West Bank, two hostile entities toward one another, are not united in anything other than their dream to destroy Israel. Yet despite their contrasting positions, it momentarily appeared that the timing for reconciliation would actually be more beneficial to Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza. He postured as the victor as if graciously making concessions to Egypt and the PA. And what could salvage the honor of Palestine’s liberator more than the pistol (allegedly plundered from IDF commandos) he proudly brandished at the victory rally?
The reconciliation and unity government with the PA would have allowed a deflated Hamas to explain, for the time being, why it ducked a fight with Israel. Israel Prize recipient Shlomo Giora Shoham touched on this motif in his book “Salvation through the Gutters.” Sinwar is still stuck in the sewer, and Hamas’ path to salvation is increasingly looking like a dead end.
(Reuven Berko, Ph.D., was the adviser on Arab affairs to the Jerusalem district police and a writer for Israel Hayom.)