Egypt knows that the problem that hinders a Palestinian agreement is mutual repulsion. Mahmoud Abbas is convinced that Hamas is plotting against it, accumulating arms in Gaza and the West Bank, preparing costumes of Presidential Guard uniforms, and formulating a secret takeover plan.
Hamas, on the other hand, declares that Abbas can no longer serve as president and charges Fatah with plotting a conspiracy to eliminate Hamas, by inciting the world against it and by isolating it. And so, both sides neutralize each other and pull the rug of legitimacy from under each other’s feet.
Hamas is unwilling to bring in Fatah fighters into Gaza in the framework of a joint force, lest they serve as spies ahead of a coup. Fatah is unwilling to bring in Hamas fighters into Judea and Samaria for the same reason.
Meanwhile, the brutality shown by Hamas men, who pushed their brothers, Fatah fighters, from the top floors of Gaza buildings, has not been forgotten. On the other hand, Hamas is certain that Fatah handed over intelligence information to Israel during Operation Cast Lead through its activists in the Gaza Strip. Tensions between the sides are immense, and each side charges the other with treachery and with undermining the common Palestinian good.
The Egyptians are highly interested in Palestinian reconciliation that would embarrass Israel and force it to open the Gaza crossings. By doing this, Israel will again connect to Gaza, in place of the Egyptians. To that end, Cairo is focusing on the interest that brings Palestinians together: In Cairo’s view, the only glue that can connect the Palestinians is the anti-Israel interest.
Be wise, not right
The Egyptian argument is that the Palestinians must join forces and form a unity government; after that, Obama will step in and take care of Israel. He will force it to establish a Palestinian state. Hamas and Fatah will be granted a state, a first independent asset, and from there they would be able to do continue doing whatever they wish vis-à-vis Israel.
Be wise, not right, the Egyptians tell the Palestinians. If you make up, you’ll be able to weaken Israel. If you’ll continue to quarrel, Israel will defeat you. You are currently facing an opportunity that may not repeat; Obama is distant from Israel, waiting for you to reconcile with each other, and then he will force Israel to withdraw from the territories.
So what will the Palestinians decide to do? Their logic favors reconciliation, yet their heart cannot accept it. It’s a great dilemma and the temptation is huge, but so is the mutual repulsion.
For the time being, the disgust is growing. Both sides are finding it difficult to sit in the same room; it is that bad. The hostility and fear between Hamas’ political Islam and Fatah’s Palestinian nationalism (or whatever is left of it) is immense; the same is true for Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s support for Fatah vis-à-vis Iran and the Shiites who back Hamas.
Yasser Arafat’s main achievement was to form one recognized Palestinian leadership. Yet now we have two; how can one even engage I dialogue with two leaderships that are hostile to each other? The Palestinian split is indeed strengthening Israel’s position while weakening any Palestinian argument.
Are the Palestinians aware that their conduct is boosting Israel? They certain are. Yet the mutual hatred and the fear of each other are greater than their hostility to Israel.