Hamas have just recently announced their intentions to dissolve their administrative committee and hold free elections. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is yet to reply to Hamas’s statements and his response may be a deciding factor in the future of Palestinian governance and also the future of the people of Gaza.
This major announcement by Hamas (if accepted) would also include allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to Gaza and for official meetings to take place between Hamas and Fatah. The last time such a proposal hit the table was in 2014, Hamas and Fatah parties signed a reconciliation deal and were moving to form a unity government, this was then ended when Israel begun it’s 50 day murderous onslaught on the Gaza strip.
Proposals like this have been made various times before and have led to nothing other than disagreements between parties or an outbreak of violence which prevented any further discussions.
So what makes this time different or what will come out of this that hasn’t been seen before?
Well, as of now Palestinian president (of the PA) Mahmoud Abbas is currently at a record low in public opinion amongst Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and illegally besieged Gaza strip. A recent poll conducted (in September) by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) has uncovered that at least 67% of the Palestinian public across the West Bank and Gaza strip would urge President Abbas to resign. On top of the fact that Abbas is rapidly loosing his popularity amongst Palestinians, he is also sick and is expected to pass away very soon. Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza wish for Abbas to dismantle the PA before he dies (or resigns) and it has been said that “the PA has become a burden on the Palestinian people” according the PSR, the likelihood of Abbas dismantling the PA however is very slim and this leaves the Israeli government keen to get it’s paws into the decision as to who the next Palestinian president will be.
Israel to wage war or to provide the context for a second Palestinian civil conflict?
If Abbas was to accept Hamas’s proposal and start engaging with them in a process that would lead to a unity government, Israel may be keen to kick off another war. In 2014 we saw that Israel was not willing to allow unity between Palestinian political factions and this was one of the biggest decision making incidents that influenced the Israeli regimes decision to wage war at that specific time.
Right now, Israel are happy with the horrific state of the Gaza strip that they have created, the conditions are almost unbearable and the situation was just deemed a “dramatic humanitarian crisis” by the UN Secretary General ‘Antonio Guterres’. Gaza’s condition however, could be changed by the prospect of a unity government. At a time when Israel’s Likud Party is loosing favor and it’s Prime Minister is under investigation on the ground of corruption, winning back Israeli public opinion could be an onslaught on Gaza away.
A reconciliation negotiation between Fatah and Hamas could spell another war on Gaza or given the situation with Mahmoud Abbas’s health, Israel could be looking for a way to find a replacement fit for Israel and a situation that will lead to more harm caused internally through Palestinian political factions.
There is talk that has been ongoing since earlier this year now of a possible buffer border - being set up between Mohammed Dahlan, the Egyptian government and Hamas - at the Rafah crossing (between Egypt and Gaza), which means Gaza would have access to many things it previously didn’t.
If a deal was to go ahead and Dahlan was to command a deal which could see the opening of the Rafah border and was then selected as the next Palestinian president after Abbas (as is rumored to be a possibility) then this would give the PA a huge amount of leverage over Gaza and could spark a potential conflict between rivaling factions.
Dahlan - who was expelled from the Palestinian Authority by Mahmoud Abbas - is known to have close relations with the Egyptian government and could possibly be co-ordinating a deal with them which would by proxy benefit the position of Israel.
Lately we have seen moves by the king of Bahrain and President Sissi of Egypt to normalize and accept the Israeli state, the President of Egypt even stated recently at the UN that “we need to stand by them (Israel)”, on top of this Netanyahu has also praised a “breakthrough” in the Israeli regimes regional ties with Arab states. It has to be assumed that Israel have a plan on how to manipulate the future of Palestinian politics, as the future endeavors of the state depend heavily upon their ability to do so and right now it could go one of many ways, as Mahmoud Abbas still has not made any response to Hamas.
The future of the Palestinian people hangs in the balance as Israel waits with it’s finger on the trigger. War is almost inevitable, it is just the form in which it will manifest that is to be figured out.