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The Perils and Prospects of Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mohammad Khajouei
MA in Middle East Studies

Though Hamas and Fatah as the two major poles in the political arena of Palestine have often repelled each other during the recent years and in spite of the fact that their reconciliation has for the most part turned into dispute after a short while, the recent rapprochement between the two Palestinian groups should be seen as different. It appears that the principal factor which caused Fatah and Hamas to move willingly towards national reconciliation and settlement of differences is to be found in the developments in the Arab world over the past year.

The Arab revolutions, whose seminal substance consisted in protesting against despotism and the inefficacy as well as corruption of Arab governments, prompted Fatah and Hamas - as the two main pillars of Palestinian politics and governance - to bring the current attritional situation to an end, put a new garment on and revive the flimsy and half-formed government of Palestine. It should be noted that political changes in the Arab states and consequently the shift in the power alignments in the region has also impacted upon the situation of Palestinian groups and to a great extent influenced them to change their approach.

Yet, Hamas appears to have benefited more from the Arab revolutions than Fatah. The collapse of Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt as well as the earlier failure of peace negotiations constituted two significant developments which challenged the position of Fatah. In addition, the popularity and primacy of Islamist groups – whose attitudes were close to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated perspectives of Hamas - following the uprisings in the Arab countries, particularly in Egypt, enables Hamas to move forward with greater power and inclined its leaders to take advantage of the new circumstances. In case national reconciliation in Palestine persists undisrupted, the achievement can strengthen their position in the face of Israel and turn their erstwhile political passivity into a type of pragmatism and praxis. Needless to say, one of the weak points of Palestinians in recent years, of which Israel has made use to its own benefit, has been their internal differences and divisions.

Though the recent agreement between Palestinian groups is a positive and a step forward, undoubtedly maintaining it is much more important than the accord itself. There is no doubt that the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas after years of dispute or even antipathy can hardly proceed smoothly and easily. Naturally, national reconciliation requires certain conditions and measures, the lack of which can push things backwards and may lead to the resumption of previous situation. The most significant condition of preserving and perpetuating the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is for both sides to recognize each other’s position in the Palestinian politics as an undeniable reality. Each of these groups, which have a considerable support base among the Palestinian people, hails from two different origins and has different views of the issues surrounding the question of Palestine. Though cooperation between Hamas and Fatah seems rather difficult in the framework of a single government, if they manage to agree upon a coherent and consistent mechanism for the purpose and accordingly each undertakes the duties which it has the ability to deliver, then instead of having the Palestinians reap the disadvantageous consequences of their differences, they will have more policy options at their disposal. In other words, Fatah should remain Fatah and Hamas should remain Hamas in the sense that in order for the national reconciliation to succeed, neither group should transform its essential character.

Difference of attitude and opinion can itself be a source of dynamism for the Palestinian society and boost the capability and competence of Palestinians in confronting political and security difficulties. Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, managed well to follow this pattern during his leadership, taking advantage of both political tools and resistance to advance Palestinian interests and objectives. Both Hamas and Fatah enjoy great capacities, which once harnessed together, can provide Palestinians with many winning cards. Fatah’s high international credibility and legitimacy can enhance the political capabilities and bargaining power of the future Palestinian state while Hamas’s Jihad-oriented approach as well as regional support for it, particularly at the public opinion level, will furnish such a state with important operational and political capacities.

The chief problem of the two groups in the past was that they were not willing to move in a two-way street and take advantage of their different capabilities. With this in mind, one should point out that another important condition for the recent reconciliation to persist is the resolution of certain issues on which they disagree, not least the way to deal the peace talks. This is exactly the point where Palestinian groups have been dented due to their lack of a coherent and coordinated plan accepted by all sides involved. It appears that this is the Achilles’ heel of the Hamas-Fatah unity government.

Finally, the third condition for the success of national reconciliation project in Palestine is the effort to structure and organize it well. In other words, in so much as Palestinians are able to base their domestic political dynamics upon legal institutions, they will manage to place their internal divisions in a determined and defined framework acceptable to and binding for all and thus avoid sliding into complex and insoluble political and security conflicts.

More By Mohammad Khajouei:

*Downfall of Military Totalitarianism in Arab World: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Downfall_of_Military_Totalitarianism_in_Arab_World.htm

*From Arab Spring to Incriminating Iran: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/From_Arab_Spring_to_Incriminating_Iran.htm

*Iran & Bahrain: Necessity of Mutual Understanding of Interests: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Bahrain_Necessity_of_Mutual_Understanding_of_Interests.htm

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