Gaza is suffering from an early onset of frustration with the results of the “reconciliation” project, as the signs suggest overwhelmingly that President Mahmoud Abbas is not serious about accomplishing what was agreed upon in the recent Cairo agreement.
There is evidence that the leader residing in Ramallah is trying to turn the Gaza Strip into an arena to reproduce his authority’s miserable experience in the occupied West Bank. This evidence includes clear hints that the President’s main objective behind the “reconciliation” is to liquidate the resistance structure in Gaza.
There is no doubt that the most dangerous action by Abbas and his team indicates that their demands for “empowering” the Palestinian Authority in Gaza means completely drying up the sources of resistance. They intend to do it by creating the conditions for the emergence of a security environment conducive to this end.
A number of those close to Abbas did not hesitate to say that “empowerment” means giving the PA absolute power “on and under the ground”. This is understood to mean that Abbas will not allow the continued existence of the defensive and offensive network of tunnels established by the resistance movements. Many resistance members sacrificed their blood and large sums of money were invested in the construction of these tunnels.
There is no need to remind everyone that the tunnels are the resistance groups’ most important defensive strategy which, to a certain extent, reduces the ability of the Israeli occupation army to benefit from its air force and armoured vehicles during its military offensives against the people of Gaza.
If we take into account the information revealed by Israel’s Channel 2 on 27 October that there has been a dramatic “positive” shift recently in security cooperation between the PA and Israel, then this means that even if Abbas is unable to employ the reconciliation agreement to affect the Palestinian resistance capabilities directly, then granting it any sort of security authority will facilitate Israel’s task of preparing a bank of targets that can be hit in any future war. This can be achieved by exploiting the PA’s security cooperation.
At the same time, all the signs are that the sudden and unplanned visit made by President Abbas to Riyadh, at the urgent invitation of the Saudi leadership, is linked to arrangements to reformulate and restructure the regional scene in a manner aligning with Israel’s interests. According to Haaretz, Abbas’s sudden summons to Riyadh, despite the dramatic domestic developments within Saudi Arabia, was to discuss the ways and means to implement the common vision formulated by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s chief advisor and son-in-law, during his own recent visits to the region.
There is evidence that the US and regional actions aim to employ the Palestinian reconciliation in their efforts to limit Iranian influence in Palestine. This is especially true after the frequent visits made by Hamas delegations to Tehran recently. The question posed here is, what do the PA and Abbas need to do in order to ensure that Hamas is distanced from Iran, especially after reaching a reconciliation with Fatah?
Do the US and regional powers believe that this goal can be achieved by means of Abbas continuing his punitive measures against the Gaza Strip? These measures have increased and intensified after the reconciliation agreement in order to push Hamas to agree to reduce its ties with Iran and force it to surrender its weapons in exchange for improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip and implementing reconstruction projects.
Another scenario that cannot be ruled out is that the regional forces and America are interested in containing Hamas by taking measures that will lead to improving the economic and living conditions in the Gaza Strip immediately. This would, it is suggested, convince the Palestinians in Gaza that they have a lot to lose in the event that Hamas refuses to give up its weapons, or at least stop its efforts to strengthen its military capabilities.
The use of the “stick” while dealing with Hamas after the reconciliation agreement, which is what Abbas is doing, may drive the movement to turn the tables on everyone by initiating a confrontation against Israel that will further complicate matters. This will not serve the interests of the Saudi-American vision for the region. Egypt is aware of this and has expressed reservations regarding Abbas’s recent actions in and against Gaza.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 13 November 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.