It cannot be denied that, despite signing a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority shares common aims with Israel. Coercion of Palestinians in Gaza is one such aspect. Imposing restrictive conditions upon Hamas, particularly that the movement abandons all resistance and disarms, is another mutual requirement.
Since communicating its intent to reconcile, Hamas has insisted that it will not surrender its weapons to the PA, despite calls from Mahmoud Abbas for “one state, one regime, one law and one weapon”. Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu persisted with his rhetoric of misplaced accountability, calling, as Abbas did, for Hamas to disarm as part of the reconciliation agreement. In addition, a statement from Netanyahu’s office partially quoted by Ma’an news agency informed: “As long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel holds it responsible for all terrorist actions originating in the Gaza strip.”
In the past, Israel has used the pretext of Palestinian political unity within the context of diplomatic negotiations. In 2013, Netanyahu insisted that Abbas’ failure to establish a wide support base among Palestinians made a peace agreement impossible to achieve. The previous attempt at a Palestinian unity government in 2014, prior to “Operation Protective Edge”, also imposed conditions upon Abbas, articulated most clearly by former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman who stated, as quoted in the Times of Israel: “[PA President] Mahmoud Abbas must decide if he wants to make peace, and if he does, with whom … The signing of an agreement for a unity government between Fatah and Hamas is a signature on the end of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
The precedents of Palestinian political unity do not bode well for the latest endeavour. Israel has, this time refrained from assertions of refusing negotiations if Hamas agrees to reconciliation. While the stance may change, it is clear that Israel and the PA are more intent upon eliminating Palestinian resistance by altering Hamas’ political identity.
Neither Palestinians, nor Hamas, can afford acquiescence to such duplicity. The context of the current purported political unity is already corrupted, having been obtained through coercion rather than free will. Unity, therefore, is a euphemism for Abbas’ authoritarian emergence and does not reflect the people’s political will. It is also, given the conditions which imposed the agreement, an infringement upon Gaza’s autonomy and Palestinian resistance which has, in recent years, been largely led by Hamas.
Israel has routinely threatened another war with Gaza, making Abbas’ demand contentious. Departing from the fact that Hamas’ existence is a direct result of colonial violence and the movement’s weapons constitute the only defence for the enclave, the PA’s demand would place Palestinians in Gaza in an unfavourable and increasingly inferior position. For Hamas, laying down weapons would shatter its foundations of anti-colonial struggle. Furthermore, the illegal blockade on Gaza, as well as the PA’s imposed punitive measures, have contributed to decisions taken by the resistance movement which are both pragmatic and, at times, bordering on compromise.
At this point, speaking of Palestinian liberation, which should take precedence above all talks of purported unity, has been replaced by efforts to remedy the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza. Israel and the PA have made a reversal of this dynamic difficult to achieve, having implemented the tactics of deprivation in order to achieve political compromise and, as a result, drastically reduce, with the aim of eliminating altogether, the possibility of Palestinian revolt.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.