Israel, US Complain about not being able to Divide and Rule the Palestinians

(By Juan Cole)

This week the Fateh Party (secular Arab nationalist) of Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas met in Gaza with members of the Hamas Party (fundamentalist Muslim), seeking a reconciliation and a government of national unity.

The Ra’y News Service of Gaza wrote, “The Palestinian Government has welcomed the [reconciliation] delegation sent by President Mahmud Abbas. It also welcomed the arrival of Dr Musa Abu-Marzuq, member of Hamas Political Bureau, into Gaza. The Government further voiced its full support for the efforts exerted to achieve national reconciliation.” (trans. via BBC Monitoring)

The two sides agreed that in 5 weeks a government of national unity will be appointed by Mahmoud Abbas. There will then be new elections for a president and parliament, to be held no later than 6 months after the new government is sworn in.

Many observers are deeply skeptical that anything will come out of this diplomatic step. It seeks to reverse a 7-year-old political schism in the Palestinian movement. In January 2006, the fundamentalist Hamas Party won the parliamentary elections. This outcome was not acceptable to Israel and the Bush administration, and they connived with the secular Palestine Liberation Organization to overthrow the Hamas government in the West Bank, in which they succeeded. A similar attempt at a coup in the Gaza Strip failed, however. Gradually journalists and politicians have forgotten who was elected and who made the coup, so that you often see the Hamas government in Gaza described as the one that came to power by force. Rather, it is the remnant of the decision the electorate made in 2006.

In 2007 Israel put Gaza under a severe blockade, including its civilian population, which has destroyed the economy, created massive unemployment, and caused a majority of families to be food insecure. It is illegal for an Occupying power to impose collective punishment on a civilian population for which it has responsibility.

President Mahmoud Abbas’s formal term ran out a long time ago, but he has stayed on as president, and appoints a prime minister even though the 2006 Hamas-dominated parliament should be doing that. (The Israelis kidnapped about a third of those elected parliament members at one point, as well as many cabinet members; they consider Hamas a terrorist organization).

The “Gaza Agreement” of yesterday, Wednesday, consisted of 5 points: 1) The formation of a government of national unity, 2) the holding of elections, 3) the re-formation of the security forces, 4) implementing social reforms, and 5) the implementation of general liberties.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya announced the “end of the long political divorce” with a big smile.

But Fateh and Hamas fighters have gotten into firefights with one another over the years, and it will take more than a one-day piece of diplomacy to overcome the bitterness between the two.

Since Fateh has recognized Israel but Hamas has not, the US and the Israeli were upset by this attempt at national unity among the Palestinians, because any government of national unity would contain ministers from Hamas with whom their Israeli counterparts would not be willing to meet. A genuine government of national unity would be a death knell, they say, for the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, which anyway have collapsed.

But the hostility of Israel and the US to a Palestinian internal reconciliation also derives from their desire to divide and rule. A united Palestinian front would make that strategy much less salient. If the 4.4 million Palestinians in the Occupied territories could speak with a single voice, they would nearly have the weight of the 5.5 million Israeli Jews.

The US spokesperson said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that does not believe it has a right to exist. The hypocrisy and irony is thick. Israel doesn’t recognize the right of Palestine to exist. As for the demand that Hamas renounce violence, likewise, Israel has not renounced violent aggression toward the Palestinians, something it and its settler surrogates engage in daily. The fact is that parties to negotiations are often engaged in violence against one another (hence the negotiations) and often don’t recognize each other’s legitimacy at the start.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the Gaza Accord and said that Mahmoud Abbas’s move signaled the end of the Palestine-Israel negotiations.

Since Israel has settled thousands of squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank since last August with the US-brokered talks began, it is difficult to see what the Palestinians gained from these negotiations, about which the ruling Israeli Likud Party was never serious (and its far right wing partners in the government were either less serious or were openly hostile to the talks). Mahmoud Abbas keeps demanding a final status map from Netanyahu, who declines to provide one.

What really dismays Washington and Tel Aviv, however, is the prospect of having to deal with the whole Palestinian people, not just a couple of hand-picked corrupt old warhorses who are easily bribed and intimidated. False flag tricks to separate the Palestinians again, which worked in 2007, are no doubt already in preparation. The sad thing is that they won’t even have to try very hard. The Palestinians, having been massively displaced and made stateless by the Israelis over several wars, are inevitably weak and divided. The US and Israel have long taken advantage of the victimization of the victims to further victimize them.

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Related video:

Euronews: “Hamas and Fatah agree on landmark Palestinian unity pact”

Reuters: “U.S. says ‘disappointed’ by Palestinian unity deal”

26 Responses

  1. The new move towards reconciliation between the Fateh Party and Hamas is a most welcome development if it lasts, because even if some form of an agreement had been reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (and the talks had already collapsed) it would not have lasted because it included only one segment of the Palestinian community. Anybody who is sincerely interested in long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians should welcome this move and should try to make it work.

    As to the recognition of Israel by Hamas, that has already been achieved. Hamas leaders have repeatedly said that they would abide by any agreement reached between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. A more important question to ask is what constitutes Israel. When in 2006 the Palestinians overwhelmingly voted for Hamas, immediately the Israeli and US governments branded them as terrorists and said that they would not talk to them until Hamas recognized the State of Israel. In response, Hamas’s elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh asked: “Which Israel do you want me to recognize? Israel based on the UN Partition Plan; the one that was formed after armed Jewish groups seized areas not included in the Partition Plan; the one that came into being when the State of Israel was declared; the post 1967 war when Israel occupied vast tracts of Palestinian lands, including East Jerusalem; or the Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates?” That question has not yet been answered as Israel has never declared its borders.

    The Arab League and all the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, including Iran, have said that they would recognize Israel in its pre-1967 borders. It is time the Israelis said yes to that generous offer, which gives them about 80 per cent of historical Palestine.

  2. What BS.
    Israel DOES recognize the right of a Palestinian state to exist. That is the agreed goal of the negotiations.
    Israel does not practice violent aggression against the Palestinians. There is a fundamental difference between aggression and self defense, even when both are with use of violence.
    Israel is much stronger, (if it weren’t it wouldn’t be around), but the aggression comes from the weak here.
    Of course, if you subscribe to the Palestinian POV that Israel’s very existence constitutes aggressive terrorism, then anything goes.

    The moral symmetry you are trying to draw here simple does not exist (without the aid of manufactured “facts”) .

    • Israel has not recognized any Palestinian state and Mr. Netanyahu says they are not yet ready for one.

      Israel and the squatters on the West Bank routinely expropriate Palestinian land and resources in a violent and aggressive manner and frequently use aerial bombings and other tactics that do not discriminate as to non-combatants.

      • Of course Israel has not recognized a Palestinian state yet, because one does not exist yet. The talks were with the goal of a two state solution, though.

        Although Israel has made many mistakes in the West bank, reading you describe it, one could get the impression that this
        whole conflict was started by Israelis attacking Arabs. The history is quite different.

        Aerial bombings (the ones on Gaza in recent years) are part of the fight against the rocket shooters into Israeli towns. It is quite simple, if there were no rockets there would be no need for defense from them. Israel actually tries to avoid as much as possible non-combatant casualties and has the technology for it (drones with cameras). Unfortunately, this can never be with 100% confidence.

        The Hamas, on the other hand, target civilian populations as a policy. It is called terrorism.
        This is exactly the reason that the agreement between Fatah and Hamas cannot go hand in hand with peace talks. You are either for terror or for a peace agreement. You can’t do both.

        • Jimmy Carter recognized that the rockets being fired by Gazan militants are in direct response to the naval blockade by Israel to prevent the free flow of goods into Gaza.

          There would be no rockets absent the blockade that violates international law.

        • They are not mistakes but deliberate aggressions against civilian population, as documented by the whistleblowers of IDF and ex-commanders of the army, numerous international organizations and observers.

          The aggressions are not comparable though, Israel hard-line politics and the Palestinian violent factions both kill people, so they are simply murderers.

          But who drives the lies behind the actions? Who are the essence behind the policies? The supporters who blindly echo the propaganda.

        • If Israel wanted a peace deal they wouldn’t keep expanding the settlements.

          Israel can either expropriate land, or negotiate for peace. They can’t do both, unless they’re lying about their intentions.

    • “Israel does not practice violent aggression against the Palestinians. ”

      You actually believe that transparent lie?

    • Israel does not practice violent aggression against the Palestinians. Hello???? What is the “IDF” doing??? Self defence when the attacked party is not allowed weapons, or an army, or any rights??? Moral symmetry? What morals has Israel, the takeover invader?

    • No, the Government of Israel has **not** recognized that the state of Palestine has a RIGHT to exist.

      It never has, and by the look of things it never, ever will.

      All that Rabin, Barak and Olmert had ever said was that they were willing to discuss the notion in direct bilateral talks with the PLO.

      All that Netanyahu has ever said is what was said in his Bar-Ilan speech i.e. IF the int’l community gives him assurances on “this” or “that” THEN he can envision a situation where his government will be willing to sit down and discuss the possibility with…. someone.

      That’s it.

      Nothing more.
      No less.

      None of them is an acknowledgement that the state of Palestine has a RIGHT to exist, merely a grudging “Eh, whatever, I’m open to discussions about it…”.

  3. Good points Dr. C.
    The USA-Israel are making a fool of themselves in the eyes of the rest of the world.

  4. of course neither Hamas nor the PA repesent the “Palestinians”, a fact that Dr Cole needs to emphasize. Likewise, he could point out from time to time that the major Zionist parties and organizations in Israel do not represent the nearly seven million Jews residing in the ex Mandate, most of whom by now are natural born residents, but indeed represent wealthy Jewish individuals in North America, Europe or large donor funded groups that rely on gifts and grants from hi-tech medical, military or ultra religious, antisecular religious groups. Indeed, the PA, Hamas and the major Zionist players in the Israel Cabinets have much in common. If the two state solution is dead, great. Dr Cole, you might now change focus on how the good people of the former Turkish province can unite in their respective interests as residents of a peaceful, tolerant, secular and multinational Palestine. There is no reason muslims should not live in Haifa or Jaffa; no reason Jews who wish to live in peaceful religious communities should not live in Hebron or Shechem. The Abbas/Haniyah/Shas/Jabotinkyite groups are all a dead end. Scholars like Dr Cole need to focus and educate readers and friends of all of Palestine on these common social and humanitarian objectives.

    • All the elections held in Palestine have returned either the PLO or Hamas to power, so I can’t agree about unrepresentativeness.

      • The PLO is not an elected body, Juan.

        All the elections so far have been for the legislative assembly of the Palestinian Authority i.e. for the PA, not for the PLO.

        Nobody ever puts their hand up for election to the PA legislature by running on the “PLO ticket”, they campaign for election either as representatives of Fatah (which is affiliated with the PLO) or of Hamas (which is not affiliated with the PLO)

        But the PLO and the PA are two separate entities, even if the same individuals occupy positions of authority in both, and even if Fatah seeks representation in both.

        • I know all that. But the PA elections do in fact return majorities for Fateh or Hamas and other elements of the PLO also do run, and people know who belongs to what– otherwise why punish Fateh in 2006? I think the electoral history challenges the idea that Palestinian politicians don’t represent anyone.

  5. The paradox of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations is that they cannot continue unless they end. That is, real and meaningful negotiations cannot begin until the pretense of negotiations end. To this point that is all there has ever been (aside from the pure horse trading of Camp David I).

    A fresh start would in any case frustrate Israel’s demonstrated agenda and the programs it has in-place with the current “process.” So, the screams we now hear from Tel Aviv are to be expected given how they represent the potential of a real step forward. There is an easy key to understanding here: watch what Israel does.

  6. Misconceptions propagated in the mainstream media concerning Hamas are widespread. However, consider the following:
    -In an important 2012 book by Shlomi Eldar, “Getting to Know Hamas”, high-level officials in Hamas, such as its political chief Khaled Meshal, are shown to be strategic and pragmatic, not fanatical ideologues as commonly portrayed by Israeli leaders. For example, after “Shalit was seized by Palestinian militants in a 2006 cross-border raid” a detailed document was “sent by messenger to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.” The document included the following: “Hamas offers two alternatives: 1. A separate track, dealing only with the release of Gilad Shalit in return for 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners. 2. A release of prisoners will take place in the broader context of a strategic approach ‏(as follows‏), and the number of prisoners released will not be in the hundreds.”
    -A 2009 study by an official U.S. government agency concluded that “Although peaceful coexistence between Israel and Hamas is clearly not possible under the formulations that comprise Hamas’s 1988 charter, Hamas has, in practice, moved well beyond its charter. Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to begin a process of coexisting with Israel.”
    link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  7. The reaction of US lawmakers is hypocritical and proves the ‘divide and conquer’ theory. Abbas is proving to be a wily strategist. For years, Israelis said they can’t make peace with just the PA. Then Kerry stepped in and suddenly the possibility of making peace with the PA was put on the table – even by Netanyahu. Could it be that Kerry wanted to push through a settlement with the PA before a reunion between the PA and Hamas could be reached in order to perpetuate the division and de facto control?

    Once again, the US stands firmly against a reconciliation before anyone knows just under what conditions it will be made. The five points are a schedule. Does anyone really think this is the ‘end’ of PA/Hamas unity negotiations? Of course not. Abbas is building his hand to pursue UN membership.

  8. Hamas and Fateh in a government of national unity?

    How can that occur when the Palestinian Authority cooperates with Shin Bet in tracking down suspected terrorist activity? With Hamas joining the Israeli government in helping them fight terror? – or with the Palestinian Authority ceasing its cooperation with Israeli authorities?

    Moshe Yaalon, the current defense minister in Israel opposed the 2005 Gaza disengagement and Likud espouses a “domino theory” that the IDF withdrawal from South Lebanon by then-PM Ehud Barak would commence a chain of events that will lead to Israel’s collapse if not reversed. The Gaza disengagement was another domino and a West Bank disengagement will be a third.

    Likud Party diehards will never relinquish the West Bank and the spike in recent settlement expansion is powerful proof of the intent of the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu took great pride privately in torpedoing the Oslo Accords as well as the later Wye Agreement.

    A number of moderates in the Knesset see a two-state solution possible with Israel and Palestine confederating into a financial and trade union much like the European Union facilitates commerce in that continent. This would be an economic boon to both nations.

    • It seems to me that the only answer to your first question is this: the agreement will involve Hamas refraining from any acts of terrorism, though they will have to finesse the issue of Hamas retaining an armed wing that sits outside the “PA Security Forces”.

  9. How about getting Putin involved? He certainly defused the bomb concerning Syria’s chemical weapons? I’m only half joking here, but the reality is, he seems to be a much better negotiator than Kerry.

  10. I think it’s more than a little disingenuous for you to mention this propaganda line of HAMAS not “recognizing” Israel, or it’s “right to exist”. There is no such precedent in history, for a political party (especially under brutal military occupation) to “recognize” the existence of a state, or the legitimacy or right of that state to exist. Being a historian, maybe you would be aware of this glaring misrepresentation of the facts?

    Would anyone take seriously a demand that Mexico recognize the right for the U.S. to exist on half it’s land? Or the legitimacy of it’s existence? How about the scattered enclaves of First Nations survivors on this continent, would anyone expect them to take such a step? HAMAS has accepted the 2 state solution, ie ’67 borders, and has agreed to abide by any popular vote made by the Palestinian population in this regard. They have held this position since 2006, google can demonstrate this in 10 seconds with countless links to mainstream media articles saying as much.

    That you don’t mention this, and the propaganda for what it is, is really shocking. Anybody with even a remotely minimal understanding of the documented record on this case knows full well that recognizing anything about Israel is not a roadblock. We have Norman Finkelstein’s detailed studies, UN resolutions and annual GA votes, formal acceptance of ’67 borders by the PLO and PA, time and time again over the last 40 years (starting in January ’76 when Syria introduced a PLO backed resolution that was vetoed by the U.S.) to tell us who the rejectionists are in this case. We have, time and again, Israeli belligerence ramping up whenever peace deals are close (what Israeli officials termed “Palestinian peace offensives” that must obviously be derailed). lol, I mean, you don’t even mention the fact that this is an imaginary demand, invented by the Israelis and pushed by the U.S., a demand that has no basis in international law (the ICJ ruling, countless UNSC/UNGA resolutions and the major rights groups have clearly laid out what is required of the Palestinians – and recognizing Israel, or it’s right to exist, or the legitimacy of it’s existence, or it’s status as the homeland for Jews, or whatever other moving goal posts you wish to conjure up, are not one of them. In fact, on every issue – refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and borders, the Palestinians have given up more than they are legally required to.

    They give up more than the ’67 borders, they allow for settlements to stay, they gave up the universal right of return for a “just settlement of the refugee” issue, they have even given up their UN protected right to use force to remove the occupation (codified in Security Council resolutions that protect national liberation movements, specifically citing apartheid regimes and military occupations) and have allowed the illegal annexation wall to remain. You mention no legal requirements, or lack thereof, yet pretend to be speaking on this issue in some kind of authoritative manner?

    I really don’t understand how you would include such a blatant piece of propaganda in your comments. It’s beyond ridiculous.

  11. Has the US Govt’s response been all that hostile to this announcement?

    The words I have seen so far from the State Department have been statements that this is “disappointing” and/or “unhelpful”, which are exactly the same words that it uses to describe Israeli settlement construction i.e. the words that it uses when it doesn’t LIKE what it is seeing but isn’t the slightest bit interested in making a move to stop it.

    For example, the State Department hasn’t used the word “unacceptable”, or anything else that would suggest that The USA Is Determined To Connive With Israel To Put A Stop To This.

    That’s a big difference to 2006, and it suggests that the USA isn’t the least bit interested in helping Netanyahu pin the blame on Abbas for the failure of these peace talks.

    Which, in itself, something that should worry Netanyahu.

    • Johnboy, the key difference being that when the US tells the Palestinians have done something “unhelpful” in terms of their sham of a peace process (ie US-Israeli demands), the threat of lost revenue and a new round of wholesale bombing for the PA is real, whereas when the same comments are directed at Israel, the threat of any of any real pressure from the Americans is non-existent. Time and time again, whenever the Palestinians are close to surrendering and accepting the full breadth of US-Israeli demands, Israel (fully backed by the US) always launches attacks, tries to provoke reaction, witholds tax revenue. This is well documented and before the internet was widely available, Israeli officials would discuss this openly, just google “Palesinian peace offensive” for a little taste of the history.

      The last example was when Palestine was accepted into Unesco, the US didn’t have to use language like “unacceptable”, they just withdrew funding from Unesco. The PA’s revenues are of course a more serious threat, with Israel regularly withholding tax revenues and the US withholding aid (the PA is a virtual client regime, contracted through Oslo to run the occupation of Israel in portions of the West Bank using their US trained and run security force) whenever the status quo of constant expansion is threatened. Again, well documented.

  12. […] According to Middle East scholar Juan Cole, the “hostility of Israel and the US to a Palestinian internal reconciliation also derives from their desire to divide and rule. A united Palestinian front would make that strategy much less salient. If the 4.4 million Palestinians in the Occupied territories could speak with a single voice, they would nearly have the weight of the 5.5 million Israeli Jews.” […]

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