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Abbas is exploiting Palestinian reconciliation and unity efforts

January 5, 2021 at 3:13 pm

In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO), US President-elect Joe Biden (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Presidential compound on March 10, 2010 in Ramallah, West Bank [Thaer Ganaim/PPO via Getty Images]

After returning to security coordination with Israel just days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential election, the Palestinian Authority wasted no time in reassuring the international community that it was ready to resume negotiations with Israel. No criticism was publicly voiced by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas over what such negotiations would entail, after Israel consolidated its position internationally through the lauded normalisation deals with Gulf and Arab states.

The next step in Abbas’s repertoire – as false as it may sound – was to resort to rhetoric of unity and democratic elections. Wafa news agency reported Abbas’s acceptance of a letter from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, which called upon the PA leader to end the Palestinian division between factions and hold elections “with full proportional representation”. Representing what, and who, one may ask?

Abbas represents Israeli and international demands, all of which have been criticised by the main Palestinian political factions, notably Hamas. The Islamic movement’s diplomatic isolation led it to political compromise in terms of resistance, making Hamas seem contradictory at times in terms of Palestinian liberation and its acceptance of the two-state compromise. The latter can be traced back to the 1947 Partition Plan which has contributed to Palestinian loss of territory to Israel. However, Hamas has remained steadfast on issues such as rejecting security coordination, as have the other Palestinian factions which recognise the duplicity in the agreement which diverts Palestinians involved in resistance activities towards Israeli jails. The last reconciliation talks with the PA were halted by Hamas over Abbas’s decision to resume security coordination.

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Now, it seems that the disagreement over this issue has been shelved, and Palestinian unity is once more the catchphrase in yet another transitional phase dominated by Israel’s drive to normalise relations with Arab states. The PA, unsurprisingly, has accepted the normalisation agreements, and sees no qualms about returning to negotiations which will bring no benefit to the Palestinian people. Hamas, on the other hand, has spoken out against normalisation, which indicates a point of contention with the PA, yet has also agreed to further the rhetoric of unity. Discrepancies remain, and there is little upon which both parties can agree regarding reconciliation, particularly when Abbas has repeatedly reneged on his word in order to maintain the PA’s vestiges of power, funded by the international community.

Palestinian factions would do well to remember that unity cannot be based upon the ongoing dilution of Palestinian rights. Israeli media reports have detailed Abbas’s “eagerness” to resume negotiations, a process which Israel definitely does not envisage having to go through with leaders other than Abbas. The PA has a track record of accommodating colonialism, about which the other Palestinian factions have repeatedly spoken out. In the face of such divergence of principles – if they still exist – the card played by Abbas is a ploy to buy further time for the “status quo” to emerge once again when Biden takes office, even though Israel’s colonial expansion has ensured that there is no status quo other than its own gains.

Abbas is exploiting Palestinian reconciliation and unity for his own political objectives, not the best interests of the Palestinian people. Is anyone surprised?

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.