Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Palestinian Authorities

Jonathan Spyer
24 April '10

Four years after the Hamas victory in elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, and three years since the movement's successful coup in Gaza, the split in the Palestinian national movement has an increasing look of permanence about it. This has major implications for the currently frozen diplomatic process.

This week, Dr. Salah al-Bardawil, a leading Hamas official, said that efforts toward Palestinian reconciliation are "frozen." In an interview with Quds press, Bardawil stated that communication between Hamas authorities in Gaza and the government of Egypt on the issue of reconciliation had ceased. Talks were now restricted to "matters such as permission for patients to leave Gaza for treatment or the return of deceased Palestinians across the Rafah crossing."

Bardawil's message was confirmed on Monday by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in a speech in Damascus. Mashaal said Hamas had been urged by Arab officials to accept Quartet conditions, including recognition of Israel, in return for changes to an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement. He said that Hamas had reiterated its refusal. Addressing "the Americans, the Zionists, and everyone," he asserted that Hamas would not "succumb to your terms. We won't pay a political price no matter how long the blockade lasts. God is with us and he will grant us victory."

These statements indicate that there is now no process under way toward ending the Palestinian political divide. On the ground, meanwhile, the rival Ramallah and Gaza Palestinian authorities are entrenching themselves.

PARALLEL TO the rise of Hamas in Gaza, and its ongoing popularity in the West Bank, Fatah is currently in a process of severe decline. The movement failed to embark on a major project of reform following its election defeat in 2006. As a result, it remains riven by factionalism and corruption. It is also, increasingly, irrelevant.

The key Palestinian leader in the West Bank today is Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad is not a Fatah member, and his government holds power not as a result of that movement's authority. Rather, Fayyad is in effect an appointee of the West. The security forces led by Gen. Keith Dayton, which keep him in place, are Western organized and financed, and not beholden to any political faction. His gradualist approach is quite alien to Palestinian political culture, and despite the undoubted improvements this approach has brought to daily life in the West Bank, the level of his support is uncertain.

It remains widely believed that without the presence of the "Dayton" forces and more importantly without the continued activities of the IDF in the West Bank, the area would fall to Hamas in a similar process to that which took place in Gaza.

(Read full report)

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