Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
What a happy Id al-Adha season it’s been for Hamas. Not only did Israel ease restrictions on travel from Gaza and the Palestinian Authority to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, so Muslims could pray at al-Aksa during their three-day festivities last week; but Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the recently formed unity government between Hamas and the Fatah-led PA, paid a historic visit to Gaza on Thursday to convene the government’s first meeting.
The timing of the meeting, in the aftermath of the important Muslim holiday, was not accidental.
In September (following the final cease-fire at the end of August that ended Operation Protective Edge), the two sides agreed that the unity government would assume authority over Gaza before October 12, the date set for an international aid conference in Cairo.
Hamdallah’s visit was purposely conspicuous. It was aimed at showing potential donor countries that they could help fund the rebuilding of a different kind of Gaza from before – one led not by Hamas, but rather by a more “moderate” entity that includes representatives from Fatah in Ramallah.
In spite of the grandiose gestures and flowery language about rapprochement between the warring Palestinian factions, Hamdallah was accompanied on his little pilgrimage to “Hamastan” by dozens of PA security forces. During his visit, he was also heavily guarded by Gazan police. After all, it would not have been helpful to the display of unity and moderation to have Hamdallah lynched by terrorists, whom he was there to whitewash for Western consumption.
Oh, and violence wouldn’t have been conducive to raising the estimated $7 billion it will take to put Gaza fully back to the business of kidnapping and killing Israelis, and to line lots of Palestinian leaders’ pockets.
“I come to you representing [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas,” he said, while touring the ruins of Israeli air strikes. “[A]nd, as head of the government of national consensus, to assume our responsibilities, see to your needs and launch a comprehensive workshop to salvage Gaza and bring relief to our people here.”
One country that has already pledged to step up to the plate is Qatar. Its contribution will be to pay Hamas salaries that Fatah have withheld. Though it is not yet clear how this is going to work out technically, the United Nations has agreed to facilitate the process. What a surprise.
Hamdallah was pleased to have resolved this key obstacle to marital bliss between the two sides of the unity government last week, ahead of his trip to Gaza. And it gave him a more credible platform for another statement he made there.
“We have put years of division behind us,” he said. “And we have begun to consolidate reconciliation as a core step to lobby the international community and its influential powers to bear their responsibility towards rebuilding Gaza, which requires lifting the unjust [Israeli] blockade.”
He did not mention, of course, that in spite of the Israeli blockade, trucks of humanitarian goods never ceased entering Gaza from Israel – not even during the 50-day war this summer, aimed at taking out rocket launchers and destroying terror tunnels, built with cement and other supplies that did not arrive there by some form of immaculate osmosis.
Meanwhile, as Hamdallah was accepting the Qatari offer last week, an impromptu pro-Islamic State sermon, delivered at al-Aksa by PA Sheik Omar Abu Sara, was posted on the Internet and translated by MEMRI.
Bemoaning Arab collaboration with the US-led coalition to combat Islamic State beheaders who are taking over large parts of Syria and Iraq, Abu Sara wailed: “Are they fighting the Jews? The Russians? The Hindus? Allahu Akbar! They are fighting our brothers. Is Jerusalem too far for them? Are the Jews too far for them...? “Our brothers, our own flesh and blood, who falsely proclaim themselves leaders and presidents of the Arab and Islamic countries, could not even agree on waging war against the Jews... However, they were able, within just a few days, to agree on the establishment of a coalition... [whose] goal... is to attack an Islamic organization... They are fighting our brothers, who profess that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger... ” It is not only PA religious figures who openly support killing Jews in the name of Allah, however.
Last month, when the terrorists who abducted and murdered Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel near Hebron in June (a trigger for Operation Protective Edge) were apprehended and killed when they opened fire on IDF soldiers, the official PA TV channel broadcast the following segment, provided by Palestinian Media Watch: “PA TV reporter: ‘At 2 a.m., according to Zionist hatred time, the residential quarter in Hebron awoke to the sound of shots fired by the occupation directly at the two shahids (martyrs), Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme...’” The item included an interview with Kawasme’s mother at his funeral. “Marwan is an angel... ” she said. “He is noble, pure and modest... a hero among heroes and a leader. If Allah hadn’t loved him, He wouldn’t have honored him with martyrdom.” Nevertheless, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is attending the donor conference in Cairo to assist in the campaign to rehabilitate Gaza, persists in his delusional insistence that Israel return to talks with the Palestinian government on a two-state solution.
Hamas and Fatah will be laughing all the way to the bank.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’