The gradual release of the details of the proposed Palestinian unity government has reached its inevitable outcome. According to Israeli media, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will not include any Hamas ministers in the government unless they openly assert their recognition of Israel.
According to Aljazeera, Abbas denied making such statements through a very brief notification on social media: “The presidency denies the remarks attributed to the president by Haaretz.”
Nevertheless, both the Times of Israel and Israel National News reported that during a meeting in Ramallah with former members of the Israeli parliament, Abbas clarified the conditions for forming part of the unity government. Ex-Labour Chairman Amram Mitzna declared that Abbas “understands that it is in the Palestinian interest to ensure that his government has a clear pyramid of responsibility and authority and that there is one level of military and police system.”
Other remarks made by the former ministers include the usual adulation, describing Abbas as “a partner for peace” and praising him for his recognition of Israel. This is a condition which he has consistently attempted to force upon Hamas and which, if accepted, would constitute a complete betrayal of the resistance movement’s roots and its obligations towards the Palestinian people.
What’s more, Abbas’s criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has only succeeded in exposing the dynamics which support the PA’s existence. Quoted in the Times of Israel, Abbas stated, “Netanyahu doesn’t want to renew the peace process, he thinks I’m going to stay here and guard the occupation.”
The statement is revelatory; it is an admission by the internationally-recognised PA regarding its role in relation to colonial violence and territorial expansion. Any attempt to suggest otherwise will fail, not only due to Abbas’s manipulation but also because the PA has incessantly proved its dedication to working against Palestinian interests. Over the years it has repeatedly exposed its loyalties to Israel, by prosecuting journalists; maintaining its “sacred” security coordination with the occupier; making shameful concessions to Israel during negotiations; and ridiculing Palestinian resistance in Gaza during Israel’s 2014 military offensive, Operation Protective Edge. It has also been seeking ways, in concordance with the US, to eliminate Hamas’s political authority in the besieged enclave and, more recently, exploiting the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza to usurp power under the pretence of a reconciliation agreement and the formation of a unity government that eradicates the necessary space for legitimate armed resistance.
Moreover, if the reported statements are true,, Abbas’s statement regarding recognition of Israel on behalf of Hamas ministers is an example of bait for political gain. The resistance movement has experienced several evolutions, particularly due to its shift from resistance to politics and diplomacy. It has so far managed to retain its distinct character due to its reticence about traversing the path which the PA has embraced to ensure its survival. Political manoeuvres will, however, ensure that Hamas is faced with very limited options; non-recognition of Israel, despite Hamas having, on occasions, referenced the two-state paradigm, will result in the complete elimination of its influence in the unity government.
Hence, it is clear that Abbas’s rhetoric about reconciliation is nothing but a very transparent attempt enforce the PA’s authoritarian control over the enclave; his agenda is less about good governance for the benefit of the people, and more to do with a naked power grab. For Palestinians in Gaza, this political farce is another macabre chapter in their narratives, and one which will have severe consequences, including the extension of their humanitarian catastrophe.