REGIONAL FOCUS: Israel set the spark of Palestinian infighting

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
5 Min Read

Neighboring Arab states face uphill battle to temper situation in Palestinian territories

Thirty people have lost their lives in the power struggle that has engulfed the Palestinian territories in the past several weeks. There is a face-off between Fatah, which holds the Presidency under Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, the cash-strapped elected government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The warring between the two main factions of Palestinian politics has taken an inexorable toll on life in Palestine, and, maybe just as importantly, it has hindered any attempts to establish some sort of framework for reaching an interminable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Which is perhaps what the Israeli administration wants. Yes, it’s de rigueur in this region to blame Israel for all ills, real and imagined. Additionally, the majority of any blame should be apportioned to the Palestinian factions that have lost sight of what really matters, which is to end the arduous plight of their people. As the representatives of the people, chosen or otherwise, that’s their job.

Yet it needs both sides to want peace for anything tangible to be achieved, and viewing Israel’s role in all this it seems that maybe the incumbent administration is not aiming for any sort of dialogue with the Palestinians.

Before Hamas won the elections, Israel gave Abbas and his government no quarter. They gave him nothing, and thus rendered him impotent. By doing this, they effectively helped Hamas rule at the polls. And after the Hamas victory, the Israeli administration turned around and stated that they would deal only with Abbas and no one else.

Which begs the question what Israel’s intentions were all along. In any case, the result was that a Hamas with no money and a Fatah with no popular mandate ended up at each others’ throats. The damage has been done and the situation is Palestinian bickering, made ever more complicated by the wishes of neighboring states.

According to analysts, Syria desires a comprehensive Arab solution with the Israelis, and not separate deals brokered with each country. Basically, Syria does not want any solution that will not include an agreement on the final status of the Golan Heights. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal does not live within the Palestinian territories, but in Syria.

King Abdullah II of Jordan met President Hosni Mubarak last week to discuss the Palestinian issue. Both countries have vested interests in what happens. Jordan boasts a Palestinian population that encompasses half the people in the tiny kingdom, and Egypt wants to end the tunnel smuggling that is permeating the Sinai-Gaza border. Both are advocating for a Palestinian unity government, something that neither Hamas nor Fatah are willing to accept at the moment, Hamas being the rightfully elected government and Fatah being the torch bearers of the original Palestinian resistance.

And the fighting goes on.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and his Jordanian counterpart Abdul-Ilah Al-Khatib both expressed their countries’ desire to seek a “final status agreement instead of the current ineffective roadmap. This agreement aims to iron out solutions to the major problems of the conflict, the emergence of a Palestinian state, the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees exiled since 1948 and afterwards, and the status of Jerusalem.

Egypt and Jordan are expected to be backed by the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and so it will be interesting to see how far this new initiative will go, as Israel and America are known to favor more short term measures. In any case, nothing will be accomplished until the infighting ceases.

For now, the Palestinian issue is over-shadowed by the turmoil in Iraq. American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region to shore up support amongst Arab states for the new US troop increase and the Iraqi government.

Whether the Palestinian issue will find any sort of headway in that meeting, even as a secondary issue to Iraq, remains to be seen.

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