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By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 5, 2009


If life was a school playground the revered and feared principal would say "OK boys, shake hands and be friends" and voila, the boys would do just that.

But life is not a school playground. And there is no revered and feared principal. And Hamas and Fatah are not about to shake hands and be friends just because the United States, with the backing of many other Western nations, wants them to.

It's not what they want to do. And who's gonna make them?

Since the conclusion of the Israeli operation against Hamas by way of a grudgingly agreed upon if not entirely adhered to unilateral cease fire, the Western world has been calling for an end to hostilities not between the avowed enemies, but between the two parties who are in reality the one enemy. In other words, forget about Israel for now, let's get Hamas and Fatah together. And then we can call it a Palestinian nation and turn our attention to a peace treaty between Israel and the now unified Palestinian nation.

The idea is to co-opt Hamas and make them a part of the greater Palestinian cause. And it is a very bad idea.

Forget about whether Israel thinks that this is a good idea, which they do not. Forget about whether Egypt and Jordan think this is a good idea, what do they know and why should they count, they are the bordering countries who understand the customs, cultures and citizens of the not-yet-formed Palestinian state. Why take into consideration the concerns of those people who are most affected by any decisions taken by the various strata of Palestinian leadership.
And why take into consideration the lessons that should have been learned from not-so-distant experience.

Just ask Hamas. They've been there and done that. Hamas wants nothing to do with this idea now just like they wanted nothing to do with it after receiving a majority in the Palestinian Parliamentary election.

Doesn't anyone in the Western world of diplomacy and decision foisting remember what happened last time there was a power sharing situation between Abbas and his Fatah party and Hamas? Come on, it wasn't that long ago. It was such a resounding success that the United States and most other Western countries cut off all aid and relations with the Palestinian Authority. And that happened why? That happened because Hamas refused to accept the three principles of the Quartet. Hamas refused to accept Israel's right to exist, Hamas refused to uphold previously entered into peace agreements with Israel and Hamas refused to denounce terror and work towards combating terror.

When asked just recently whether they would join Fatah and Abbas, Hamas said "no." Hamas did not even blink. For Hamas it is a no brainer. Hamas does not like to share, does not want to share and will not share. Once again, think schoolyard. Hamas likes to bully. Once again, think back just a little. Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza only a year ago last summer. They won an election and received a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament. Hamas has no need for Fatah.

Hamas not only has no need for Fatah in Gaza, Hamas actually wants to oust Fatah from power in the West Bank. In the eyes of Hamas, Hamas deserves total control.

The Western sponsored proposal for Palestinian power sharing would have Fatah's Abbas as the number one man and Hamas coming up second. And now the West is surprised that Hamas finds the proposal, how shall I say it, unacceptable. Fatah and Hamas are sworn enemies. And as far as Hamas is concerned, Abbas is a traitor.

Hamas believes that Abbas and, by extension, Fatah were in favor of the Israeli operation into Gaza. Hamas believes that Fatah collaborated with Israel. And in the world governed by Hamas calling someone a collaborator is akin to an Imam calling someone an infidel. Hamas believes that Israel would never have been so successful had they not had the assistance of Fatah members on the ground. And that is why the human shields that Hamas used in Gaza against the Israelis were families of Fatah affiliates.

Ismail Haniyah, the Hamas leader from Gaza who was elected Palestinian Prime Minister, has vividly depicted Abbas as a man who would "ride into Gaza on an Israeli tank." The imagery is powerful. The imagery resonates with Hamas advocates and Hamas supporters. It is a symbol that will be repeated in the Arabic press and on the Arab street. It means that Abbas permitted Israel to do what it did all in order to reap the benefits of an Israeli operation that would crush Hamas and neuter it militarily. This is a blood feud as much as it is a religious conflict.

The battle between Hamas and Fatah is the central story in the Palestinian world today. Neither side is shaking hands. Hamas and Fatah are not about to become friends.

They've learned their lesson. We should learn it, too.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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