Is Fatah-Hamas Marriage On The Rocks?

It appears the marriage between the two leading Palestinian factions may be on the rocks even before it had a chance to be consummated.

Behind the break-up is the Palestinian Authority’s condemnation of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, believed to be the work of Hamas, and the cooperation of PA and Israeli security forces in the search for the boys.

Hamas said accusations by Benjamin Netanyahu that it is behind the kidnapping are “stupid.” Even if Hamas wasn’t directly responsible it most likely knows who is, and the group has a long record of advocating the kidnapping Israelis as barter for disproportionate prisoner swaps and other goals.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the architect of the reconciliation, is watching his achievement crumble.  With strong U.S. urging, he called Netanyahu over the weekend to condemn the abduction and say his security forces are assisting in the search for the youths.   Bibi responded that he held Abbas responsible for the abduction because the kidnappers set out from and returned to areas controlled by the PA. Abbas also condemned the massive Israeli manhunt and sweeping arrests.

An outraged Hamas called Abbas’s actions “a moral stain.”  It responded by urging Palestinians to erase their security cameras and refuse any cooperation with the search.

This is just another pothole – or maybe sinkhole – on the road to Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

All the past attempts of a union between the secular nationalist Fatah movement, which leads the PA and the PLO, and the Islamist militant Hamas, which broke away in a bloody coup in 2007, have foundered, and this one may prove no exception.

They’ve made a few steps toward the altar by installing a government of technocrats under a Fatah prime minister, but it seems Hamas just can’t break its old philandering ways of terrorism. 

It steadfastly rejects demands that it recognize of Israel, adhere to past Israeli-Palestinian agreements and renounce violence – all terms accepted by the PA.

Exacerbating the problem has been an increase of rocket launchings from Gaza toward Israeli communities, inviting punitive visits from the Israeli Air Force.

The engagement announced in April was intended to lead to new and long-overdue national elections for president and parliament.  The 79-year-old Abbas, whose term expired several years ago, apparently felt confident that his faction could win.

They’ve begun updating voter rolls and arguing over who could campaign where, but no election rules or dates have been agreed to.  But that may be rendered moot as the kidnapping apparently dealt a mortal blow to marriage plans.

Almost from the moment they announced their engagement, "Hamas was trying to undermine the relative peace in the West Bank and foment unrest against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Avi Issacharoff wrote in The Times of Israel. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.