Palestine: Forget Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah

June 26, 2011 by David Singer
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The much vaunted reconciliation between rival Palestinian Arab groups Hamas and Fatah still remains a mirage almost two months after the widely publicized signing of a reconciliation agreement in Cairo between the two groups on 4 May.

Really no more than a heads of agreement – there has still been no demonstrable progress on any of the matters to be implemented under that agreement.

Ostensibly the logjam has been caused by the parties being unable to agree on a Prime Minister to head the new government of reconciliation until fresh elections are held – supposedly on 4 May 2012.

Fatah has nominated the Palestinian Authority’s current Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – whose appointment has been vehemently opposed by Hamas – and for good reason.

Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh  was nominated as prime minister on 16 February 2006 following the Hamas victory in the elections held on 25 January 2006. He was formally presented to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on 20 February 2006 and was sworn in 29 March 2006.

On 14 June 2007, Abbas dismissed Haniyeh and appointed Fayyad in his place. This followed a bitter internecine struggle between Hamas and Fatah that resulted in Hamas gaining control of Gaza culminating in the ICRC estimating that 118 Gazans had been killed and 550 wounded in just the previous week’s struggle for control of Gaza.

The appointment of Fayyad to replace Haniyeh has been challenged as illegal, because under the Palestinian Basic Law, the President of the Palestinian Authority may dismiss a sitting prime minister, but may not appoint a replacement without the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council. According to the law, until a new prime minister is thus appointed, the outgoing prime minister heads a caretaker government. Fayyad’s appointment was never placed before, or approved, by the Legislative Council.

For this reason, Haniyeh has continued to operate in Gaza, and been recognised by a large number of Palestinians as the legitimate acting prime minister.

Anis al-Qasem – the Palestinian constitutional lawyer who drafted the Basic Law, is among those who has publicly declared the appointment of Fayyad to be illegal.

Certainly the appointment of a mutually acceptable Prime Minister is an issue – but there are other far more critical problems threatening the likelihood of  reconciliation ever being implemented.

A report prepared by the Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies in December 2009 titled “Bastion of Immunity, Mirage of Reform” details the enormous challenges faced by Hamas and Fatah in reconciling their differences:

“Under the cover of the war in Gaza, Hamas embarked on several repressive measures targeting Fatah members, figures who oppose Hamas’ rule, and suspected collaborators with Israel, and it is suspected that dozens of people were killed, either shot to death or as a result of torture. Hamas personnel also broke the legs and arms of dozens of other people to compel them to stay in their homes. Also, some government employees in Gaza were replaced with Hamas loyalists.

In the West Bank, under the authority of Fatah, hundreds of Hamas sympathizers remain in detention; it is thought that at least two of the detainees have died as a result of torture. The West Bank authorities fired civil servants and teachers suspected of Hamas sympathies, while the salaries of thousands of employees of the Palestinian authority inside the Gaza Strip were suspended. Licensing for associations and companies in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is now preceded by a security check,and those organizations that have affiliations with the “wrong” party are refused Licenses.”

Rectifying this reprehensible conduct on both sides is virtually only mentioned in passing in Article 4B5 of the 4 May reconciliation agreement in these bland and impersonal terms:

“To resolve the civil and administrative problems that resulted from the division.”

An unknown number of political prisoners held by both sides continue to languish in prisons as a result of Hamas and Fatah being obviously unable to agree on their release.

Matters such as compensating families for the loss of their family members murdered and tortured or who lost their jobs will also need to be resolved if  true reconciliation is to be achieved.

Other fundamental doctrinal issues also indicate the unrealistic possibility of reconciliation.

They centre around the provisions of  Article 13 and Article 27 of the Hamas Covenant 1988

Article 13 declares:

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.”

Hamas could hardly agree to be part of a Government seeking to approach the United Nations in September to declare a Palestinian Arab State in only 5% of former Palestine. Abandoning its stated goal of securing sovereignty in 100% of former Palestine would defeat the raison d’etre for its very existence.

Article 27 poses even bigger problems for the mooted reconciliation by making it clear that Hamas is opposed to a secular State of Palestine as endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organization – of which Fatah is the controlling factional member – whilst Hamas is not even a member:

“Secularism completely contradicts religious ideology. Attitudes, conduct and decisions stem from ideologies.

That is why, with all our appreciation for the Palestinian Liberation Organization – and what it can develop into – and without belittling its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser. The day the Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies.”

The struggle for the hearts and the minds of the Palestinian Arabs is set to continue for a long time – whilst these fundamental differences of philosophy divide Hamas and Fatah. Reconciling these two conflicting viewpoints in a united Government seems impossible to achieve.

The dispute about who will be Prime Minister pales into insignificance compared to these fundamentally very different positions.

Only an election can clear the air between Hamas and Fatah and determine which should govern. The likelihood of this happening in the current circumstances is very remote.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network



5 Responses to “Palestine: Forget Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    To AQaH

    David is absolutely right !

    AQaH sort of replied in the standard fashion of obtuse, irrational and intollerant strategfy of the palestinian camp, precisely as I described above.
    Palestinians and their partisans are NOT interested in a valid state, drawn on priciples that all NORMAL state forms function.The farcical idea of a palestinian nation, not once dreamt of prior to Israel wrestling historic Jewish lands, Judea and Samaria from Jordan in 1967, was and is still based on the spirit of corrupt permanent conflict, the so called “struggle”, of a political clicque with variants in tactics, a clicque that functions on permanent subsidies on billions which keep a few sellect leaders in excellent stead while the same are prommoting the dire state of affairs of their own people as damning “evidence” of Israli occupation…..
    Meanwhile mouth pieces of aggressivness and distortions make for the propaganda machine of the said political formula. I would like to see people like the curageous “identity” AQaH explain what sort of “humans” wrap up their OWN children in explosive attire and have the heroic heart of detonating them in murderous horrors in the name of a bright future for their…younger generations !! Just watch them blame again….Israel.

  2. david singer says:

    To AQaH

    I always find it interesting when people like yourself seek to raise issues which have nothing to do with the subject matter of my article. Is that because you have no basis to disagree with my stated viewpoint?

    My article details the reasons why I believe that reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is a mirage. If you think I have got it wrong and you believe they are soon going to jump into bed together – then by all means point out your reasons and we can discuss them.

    The matters raised by you are totally irrelevant to the material dealt with in my article and contribute nothing to a rational discussion of my article.

  3. AQaH says:

    it comes as no surprise that david’s myopic view remains as recalcitrant as ever.

    i’m interested to know why, for example, david does not mention likud’s charter:
    NO to a Palestinian state
    NO to sharing jerusalem
    NO to sending the settlements

    there are countless other examples that a very basic google search would show just show disingenuous david’s arguments are that i will not bore the readers with all of the details but cover the following issues:
    water theft
    land theft
    home demolitions
    restriction of movement
    and on it goes.

    david, understand this, without justice, there will never be peace.

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    Sadly, looking at the general and specific behaviour of almost all Arab regimes from the legal perspective is not going to either define their policies nor is it conducive to projecting rational and clear images of their so called “legal” obligations.
    The fluidity of the palestinian political reactions makes it impossible to conclude with almost any degree of certitude the palestinian outcomes of almost any overtures presented to them by Israel. One thing is,however, of greater certainty and it shall keep a high degree of cohesion within the entire palestinian camp; both Hamas and Fatah have as their common goal keeping Israel in a continuum of tension and milking the sympathy and material benefits from an increasing and reliable world of sympathy and support for their “cause”. Minutiae variations in the Hamas and Fatah rhetorics are,obviously, insufficient to break their otherwise solid anti Israel block.

  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    With all due respect, while very informative,the conclusions drawn from the letter of documents pertaining to the “legal” character of the more or less coagulated palestinian entity must be seen as a modicum of formalising the ambition of the palestinian leadership to present to the owrld a society properly stratified politcally, ethical in character by the mere vehicle of legal order and documentary discipline. The infantile historic stage of the said palestinian society,the one we are the witnesses and actual victims of,is, indeed, attempting to come to terms with the necessary formalities of a statal structure. What goes behind the strictness of the wording of any such document, as partially evinced by David Singer anyway, is in complete contradiction with the expected rigour of a NORMAL society. Attempting to find rhyme and reason within the texts of documents , as perused, of a surgical legal mind can only distract the analyst of the palestinian phenomenon from its incredibly tangible realities.
    Arab pragmatism,as we well know it, will dispense with the legalities and, instead of fergetting aliances of temporal convenience shall keep on forging the same, consistent with the coincidental purpose of the aparent conflicting factions within ONE only palestinian geoplitical entity. And the purpose shall remain the same and I shall not nauseate you, worthy readers, with what is their main target, home made rockets or not….
    As such we shall continue to be regaled with the most absurd, conflicting statements, measures, proposals, counterproposals, policies, laws etc. all of which will fail to be noticed as the incongruous character of the palestinian political psyche, as the ambition for statehood which, if and when put to international scrutiny shall pass with flying colours, eventually even the ones belonging to one Barak Obamma !
    And thus just a simple letter shall define the palestinian incredible success in playing any game they want at the expense of any rational and “t” shall become “d” in the above word: “forget”.

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