On Tuesday Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, was in Jordan meeting with U.S. envoy David Hale “until the late hours of [the] night.”
They reportedly talked about pressuring Israel to stop settlement construction and about the PA’s severe financial crisis. It would be a safe bet that the topic of the U.S. possibly doing something to ease the PA’s crisis came up.
On Wednesday, Abbas was off to Cairo to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (reports on these occurrences here and here). There, the subject was expected to be another attempt at unification between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas.
One could say, then, that there was a certain versatility in Abbas’s appointments schedule. On Tuesday, he met with a representative of the world’s leading democracy and ally of Israel; on the very next day, with Mashaal—who, in a speech in Gaza last month, proclaimed:
We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way…. We cannot recognize Israel’s legitimacy.
And the host of Wednesday’s meeting was to be Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi—who has also let loose some unkind remarks in the Israeli direction, as in a 2010 interview in which he called Israelis “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Fatah and Hamas have tried to reconcile several times since 2007, when Hamas seized full control of Gaza in a bloody clash between the two, but so far have always failed. The last major attempt came with the Doha agreement last February, seen by some analysts at the time as Abbas’s capitulation to the Islamist tide of the Arab Spring.
But while the Qatar-based Mashaal pushed for the deal, the Gaza-based Hamas leadership was cool toward it; in the end, Doha, too, fell through.
There are many reasons why Fatah and Hamas have trouble getting along. There is the sheer, naked power struggle between them, the bitter legacy of confrontation, with each group jailing and torturing each other’s members to this day.
There is also the difference between Hamas’s Islamism and Fatah’s more secular-nationalist coloration. That, in turn, is related to a difference in method, with Fatah playing the diplomatic game and seeking to impose “Palestine” on Israel through the UN, while Hamas stands aloof in ideological purity and fires rockets.
Some, though, believe this time Fatah and Hamas may really be warming to each other. On Friday night Fatah marked the 48th anniversary of its first terror attack on Israel with a rally attended by tens of thousands—in Gaza, for the first time since Hamas’s 2007 takeover.
One can also entertain all sorts of conjectures about Morsi’s hosting of Wednesday’s Abbas-Mashaal tête-á-tête.
On the one hand, since Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation against Gaza terror in November, Egypt has reportedly been playing its part of intercepting arms shipments headed for Gaza. With Egypt’s economy tottering on the brink, Morsi remains desperately in need of U.S. and other Western aid and seems willing to comply with this role for now.
On the other, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood outlook and virulent negation of Israel are a matter of record. Promoting a Fatah-Hamas “reconciliation” ultimately aimed at giving the latter the upper hand would well suit the larger Brotherhood goals.
It is, though, too early to say whether this latest effort at meshing the two Palestinian movements will get anywhere. What can be noted at this point, however, is the ease with which Abbas—the designated “moderate” of U.S. administrations and the Israeli left—can sustain his flirtation with openly genocidal Hamas and get away with it.
It wasn’t lost on the Israeli prime minister, who remarked Wednesday night: “[Abbas] is in Cairo together with the head of Hamas. They are looking into a possible unity deal between Fatah and the terrorists who have been trying to annihilate the state of Israel…”
While the U.S. may be perennially soft toward Abbas and his intra-Palestinian maneuvers, Netanyahu—who has already moved to withhold PA tax revenues—knows that a rightward-tending Israel is no longer in the mood for it.
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