Brig Gen (Retd) Dr Ephraim Sneh
Chairman, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Studies
Netanya Academic College, Israel
The so-called reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in not a genuine, authentic process. It is a kind of, let’s say, cease fire agreement, which is imposed by the Egyptian intelligence, and the record of this so called reconciliation is very, very poor. What’s the reason? Why it has never succeeded, or succeeded, but didn’t last for a long time and the agreement brakes after a short time? There is something which is very profound.
The political and ideological visions of Hamas and Fatah are contradicting and irreconcilable. Why? Because their visions about how the Palestinian society, the Palestinian state should look like are totally different. The people of Fatah, which is a national movement, speak about a modern, Western-oriented society: modernised, progressive, part of the “new world”, while Hamas speaks about a theocratic, religious, Muslim state. And it is not the same. That’s why there is no reconciliation between their dreams, there is no reconciliation on the ground. They are heading towards two very different goals. That’s why all kinds of so called reconciliation are very short-time.
But there is another very profound reason. In the collective mentality of political Islam there is no power-sharing. And you can look at other examples, where political Islam is in power. It’s either-or. Either they have total control, total power, or they are opposing existing order. Power-sharing, maybe only in Tunisia you have an example of power-sharing, not anywhere else.
So if they are speaking about joint management, cooperation, I wonder if it will work, because there are built-in reasons why it cannot last very long. But there is another reason in the specific example of Gaza. As long as Hamas is not disarmed and the so-called military wing of Hamas remains at large heavily armed – strong military force in Gaza – all the other kinds of government are fictitious. They are not real. Because at the end of the day what will define who will rule Gaza is not the agreement in Cairo, but the reality on the ground. And the fact that Hamas is actually an old, very strong military leverage, sooner or later will bring about the collapse of the agreement, because it is not sustainable. Because if, for instance, the security forces which are loyal to Ramallah, to Abu Mazen, will arrest somebody and the Hamas will not like it, they will immediately use force to stop it. Any decision that the Hamas will not like, they will not obey, and sooner or later they will use military force to change it. In such reality the fact that Hamas is the strongest military force in Gaza will make any solution impossible.
Although in the short run, for a short period of time, maybe this reconciliation agreement will make the lives of the population of Gaza a little bit easier. We are speaking about two million Palestinians who are living in Gaza in very bad social conditions. Maybe some payments from outside, some measures from Ramallah, restoring of some salaries – these kinds of measures will make the lives of the population of Gaza a little bit better. But it will not solve the basic economic problems of Gaza. New investments will not come from private sector to a place where forty thousand fanatics are holding Kalashnikovs. It will not work. And the solution for the economic problems of Gaza – the unemployment, the poverty – is not vouchers, not donations, but foreign investment in projects that are feasible in Gaza, but under normal conditions. No other terror organisation has such a heavy say in how the lives are run in Gaza. The solution to the problem of Gaza is a combined one: economic, political administrative and military. And only by cooperation of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, at least one wealthy Arab state which is not Qatar, and Israel. If these factors work together, then a solution for Gaza is possible.
And again, there is no solution in Gaza which is not connected to the political solution of the Palestinian problem through agreement with Israel, with support of the regional powers: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan. Without such a regional cooperation which is supporting the agreement, Gaza will not be another place, though it can be another place: without terror, without launching missiles against Israel. With heavy foreign investment Gaza can be a Dubai of the Mediterranean. But for this what is needed are genuine arrangements and agreements and not fake reconciliations, as the current agreement is.