It has been a year since the swearing-in of the national unity government of Fatah and Hamas, agreed upon by the warring Palestinian factions two months earlier. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his displeasure with the merger. He said it showed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had chosen terrorism over peace.
Since Abbas has never opted for the latter – rejecting all direct Israeli overtures and those brokered by the United States – the Israeli leader’s words rang hollow. But they were made necessary by the conventional myth that something resembling a “peace process” had been going on between Israel and the Palestinians for more than two decades. It was this “peace process” that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords, which have done nothing but perpetuate war.
Nevertheless, the lie lives on, as does the lip service enlisted in its embellishment.
The fiction centers on two tenets. The first is that Middle East stability rests on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The second is that Israel, being responsible for the predicament in the first place, bears the burden of repairing the damage. The trouble is that facts keep interfering with the storyline, which jeopardizes its happy ending.
To cope with these unwanted disruptions, new fantasies have to be concocted along the way, to enable their authors and adherents to stay on track.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation was but one example of a glitch in the script that had to be dealt with. Up until the unity deal was signed in April 2014, the mutual enmity between the two terrorist groups provided a smoke screen for Abbas. The blatantly Islamist Hamas was recognized as a terrorist organization by most of the West; the PA, less openly religious, was and still is treated as a moderate entity, whose ultimate goal is merely statehood along the 1967 borders.
When Abbas was willing to cooperate with Hamas, rather than negotiate with Israel, it became tricky for PA apologists to justify their assertions about where his true interests lay.
And though some simply blamed Israel by rote, others realized that this would not wash. No, Abbas’ rapprochement with Hamas required a bit more creativity on their part.
The poetic license applied was as follows: It’s a good thing that the two factions have joined forces, because now Abbas will be able to speak for the entire Palestinian population. And this will make him a more reliable partner in any deal he might reach with Israel. From this logic emerged the previously frowned-upon idea that Hamas, too, could end up a party to negotiations.
After all, as former president Shimon Peres and his ilk have always said, “Peace is something made with enemies.”
As soon as this excuse for optimism was finetuned, Palestinian “unity” began to unravel.
So much so that the PA has not lifted a finger, or spent a dime of the billions at its disposal, to facilitate the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Gaza following Operation Cast Lead last summer. It is actually Israel that has been transporting tons of construction material and humanitarian goods into the area on a regular basis. But Hamas is too busy rearming and digging new tunnels to be bothered with the welfare of the populace, much of which it abuses anyway. Even Amnesty International is drawing that conclusion, judging by a report it released last Tuesday.
According to the report, Hamas used its war with Israel as a cover-up for its executions of rival Palestinians. This is how the atrocities were summarized: “Many of these unlawful killings were publicly billed as attacks against people assisting Israel during the July and August 2014 conflict as part of an operation codenamed “Strangling Necks,” to target “collaborators.”
However, in reality, at least 16 of those executed had been in Hamas custody since before the conflict broke out. Many had been awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were taken away from prison and summarily executed. Hamas forces also abducted, tortured or attacked members and supporters of Fatah... Not a single person has been held accountable for the crimes committed by Hamas forces against Palestinians during the 2014 conflict, indicating that these crimes were either ordered or condoned by the authorities.”
Israel is not let off the hook in this report.
But that is par for the course.
Nor is the violence of the various Palestinian groups in Gaza or the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) the least bit new. The novelty lies in the fact that an international human rights organization is acknowledging it so publicly.
This will not change the storyline about Palestinian statehood being everyone’s aim and Israel’s imperative, however, as is indicated by recent visits to Gaza on the part of envoys from the European Union, the UN, Qatar and Turkey, to try to get Hamas and Fatah to patch things up. You know, for the sake of Palestinian statehood – and the continued ability to blame Israel for failure on this score.
Abbas is well aware of the world’s perception.
It is thus that he went to the UN to declare statehood and continues to claim that all he wants is a place he can call his own along the 1967 borders. This he does while commemorating the “nakba,” the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948, just as loudly and clearly as his Hamas counterparts.
But it is not Israel he fears. It is the growing popularity of Hamas in territory he controls that keeps him traveling the globe for sympathy and funds, both of which are available to him as long as he is considered Israel’s victim.
His status as a leader on the world stage, in fact, depends entirely on an absence of Palestinian statehood. Abbas knows that, at home, he and his peace-posturing are unpopular, as last month’s student council elections at Birzeit University in Ramallah illustrate. There, Hamas won, hands down.
What is confusing the writers of each new chapter of the endless farce is whether they are supposed to favor or oppose Palestinian unity.
So their latest literary device to keep the peace blather going is a renewal of the old Saudi initiative, according to which Israel cedes to every Palestinian demand, including those guaranteeing the annihilation of the Jewish state, and receives in return an alliance with the moderate Arab countries in the region.
Netanyahu said he doesn’t rule out that plan, minus the untenable bits. This made as many headlines as the Amnesty report – though Palestinian statehood and partnerships with Arab neighbors under the right conditions for actual peace has been Netanyahu’s position all along.
On this anniversary of the Fatah-Hamas marriage that is clearly headed for divorce, the talk of peace in the West remains constant, while Israel, as always, has no choice but to prepare for the next war.
The writer is the web editor of Voice of Israel talk radio (voiceofisrael.com) and a columnist at Israel Hayom.
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