The Palestinians Inside the Green Line and Their Positions Regrading the Palestinian Division
The Palestinians Inside the Green Line and Their Positions Regrading the Palestinian Division
نشر في 04 ديسمبر 2017 .
The Palestinians Inside the Green Line and Their Positions Regrading the Palestinian Division
Ali Abu Zayed1,
Yerevan State University
This paper reviews the positions of prominent Israeli Arab figures regarding the Palestinian Division between Hamas and Fatah. I find that their opinions about the roots of the divisions vary. They, however, agree that Israeli policies played a role in causing and deepening this division. The participants in this study mostly agree that this division has been very consequential; it has negatively impacted the lives of Palestinians and their position at the international stage. In particular, the participants believe that this division has caused socio-economic hardships and made the International Community less sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Keywords: Palestinian Division; Palestinians Inside the Green Line
As the steadfast and fundamental part of the people who remained on their lands despite the Israeli policies that have always tried to force them out of their homeland and discriminated against them since 1948, the Israeli Arabs (often referred to as “The Palestinians inside the Green Line”) will not stand idle in front of anything that disturbs the future of the Palestinian people. At all the stages of the Palestinian cause, this group has played a leading role in setting the positions and actions to counter the plots against their Palestinian people. In this paper, I study the opinions of leading figures in this group regarding the Palestinian Division. By so doing, I can better explore the opinions and positions which, in general, highlight the Israeli attempts to change the demographics of the country, besiege and marginalize the Palestinians, and even plot for their fragmentation, siege and weakening.
When the Palestinian Division between the Hamas and Fatah movements happened, it has negatively affected the Palestinian national cause. The Palestinians inside the Green Line then played a prominent role in the attempts to reconcile the two sides. The tensions between both movements reflected struggles over power and controlling the Palestinian resources rather than ideological differences. The two movements came from the same background despite the differences in their declared political agendas (that do not reflect their essence). Both movements have also been influenced by external agendas and by the narrow interests of their leaders. The division has resulted in mistrust and a gap between the nation and its leadership. It has also weakened the other parties that tried to bridge this gap but were unable to create a third body that could minimize the negative effects of the division.
The conflict of agendas and interests between Fatah and Hamas led to differences in the methods of resistance as well as to different approaches to the Palestinian relations with Israel and other neighboring countries. The fact that Fatah represents the “Arab nationalist” movement while Hamas represents the contemporary religious wing of the Palestinian people led to different approaches to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority (PA). These differences started in 1987, during the Uprising of Stones, which was the time that Hamas has emerged. Excluding Hamas from power, especially after winning the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), deepened the differences between both groups.
The goal of this paper is to explore the views about the causes and consequences of this division, and to address potential avenues for bringing reconciliation between the movements that, in turn, may enable the Palestinians to fulfill their aspirations for an independent state. The study is conducted among leaders of various parties and roles in the Israeli Arab community.
This paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 of this paper reviews the causes of the Palestinian Division according to the interviewees. Section 3 discusses their views about consequences of the division. Section 4 outlines the necessary steps towards reconciliation between the two movements. Section 5 concludes.
2. The Palestinian Division: Causes
In this section, I summarize the opinions of leading Israeli Arab figures regarding the Palestinian Division. The respondents, asked about their attitude towards the division, did not agree on one specific reason. Rather, they mentioned several reasons- the most prominent of them was probably expressed by Asaad Ghanem, who stated that “Israel played a role in this division even though it hurt the peace process. The division served the Israeli interests. The Palestinian national structure was weak and it seems that President Abu Mazen’s interests intersect with those of Israel. Abu Mazen wanted to satisfy the Fatah movement and his own aspirations when he called for elections. He thought that he could reunite the nation, but at that time, he could not make any changes to the internal politics.”
Dr. Ibrahim Abu Jaber, who viewed the conflict as intellectual and ideological debate between the two movements before it became political, agreed with Ghanem. In his view “There is no doubt that the main reasons for the division were the Oslo Accords, the ideological differences between Fatah and Hamas, and the Palestinian Liberalization Organization (PLO) factions. This division has had its consequences on the Arab world. The PLO, which is supported by the Arab countries, is in favor of the so-called “peaceful settlement”. Hamas has religious and ideological relations with the Muslim Brotherhood; for this reason, the religious approach of Hamas is an ideological one and it is different from that of Fatah or the PLO. This issue has negatively affected the Palestinians, and in one way or another contributed to the division. Among these reasons is the corruption that spread within the Palestinian Authority, nepotism and financial and moral corruption in the Gaza Strip. The media reported that even some decisions regarding certain issues were taken in relation to corruption. The Palestinian Authority arrested and imprisoned Hamas leaders, and even attacked some of them in mosques or in public places. This led to a military conflict between the two sides and an overthrowing of Fatah by Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the 2006 elections (in 2007). The result of these events was two entities: one in the Gaza Strip led by Hamas, and another in the West Bank that is led by Fatah.”
Massoud Ghanayem also thinks that the division has its roots in the ideological and intellectual differences between the two movements. He said that ”I believe that the division is a cumulative process, which means that it did not start by coincidence or quickly. The reasons that led to the division mounted over time. Of course, the conflict of interests between the two movements and the clash between ideologies and ideas, their visions of the Palestinian cause, their stand on the peace process as well as the fact that they do not recognize the legitimacy of each other have been the main reasons for this division. It is true that Fatah and Hamas with the other Palestinian factions fight against the Israeli occupation, but their internal conflict has served the occupation and has become a priority. The main objective was to control the Palestinian main street, and each party tried to impose its agenda on others. Therefore, they did not recognize each other and did not look for mechanisms that enable cooperation and understanding. The deaths of Yasser Arafat and Ahmad Yassin also helped in the deterioration of the relations; they were leaders who managed to prevent conflicts.”
Mohammed Baraka, the head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, referred to the deep ideological dispute as the root of the division between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. According to him “There are real ideological differences among the different political Palestinian groups. The division started when Sharon unilaterally withdrew from Gaza without any agreement with the Palestinian Authority. He knew there would be chaos. In my opinion, some people have their own agendas and they felt that the division would serve their interests. Hamas rejected the national Palestinian project and wanted to have its own. In addition, after the Palestinian elections, which Hamas won in 2006, many questioned whether power could be smoothly transferred to Hamas. Fatah came up with its platform for forming a government, but Hamas did not accept it. Nevertheless, the president gave Hamas the opportunity to form the government even without its approval of the political reference of the Palestinian Authority, on the basis of which this authority was established, and the elections for the PLC were held. It was illogical for Hamas to take part in the PLC elections and then reject their political reference. I believe that this was a result of the contradictions between the powers of the two institutions: the government and the presidency. Both sides claimed that they were democratically elected. The basic reference regarding any political agreement is the PLO, not the Authority. The division is a result of ideological and political factors with Israel’s support, the dispute over power and the attempts to have relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Others said that the division was a result of the conflict over power, political positions and the leadership of the Palestinian people. This view was expressed by a group of respondents, including Member of Knesset (MK) Dr. Ahmad Tibi, who said “Unfortunately, fighting for authority and the absence of Palestinian democracy led to this division. When I talk about authority, I mean the Palestinian Authority, the product of Oslo, which has no real sovereignty. This bloody fight can never be justified. I said more than once that this struggle was for having the keys of the prison. Anther reason is the lack of a democratic culture. The fight over power was the main reason.”
Aida Touma, who is another Member of Knesset, agreed with him that the division was caused by the results of the Palestinian elections that Hamas won and the rejection of these elections both internally and externally. She stated that “The division officially began after the elections and the rise of Hamas to power. I think that the world’s rejection of the elections, regardless of the pressure that was made worldwide, deepened the division, which was basically ideological. The Americans rejected the results of the elections and did not recognize Hamas as the leader of the Authority. The Europeans did not expect the results of the elections and put pressure on the Palestinians afterwards. This has also contributed to the division. The division is a bilateral action. It is impossible to compare throwing people from towers and killing Palestinians with what Fatah and the government did.”
Another opinion was expressed by the Member of Knesset Dr. Jamal Zahalka, who claimed that the dispute over the mechanism of dealing with Israel is another reason for the division. Hamas supports armed opposition while Fatah is in favor of negotiations and a peaceful solution. According to him ”The division was a result of disagreements about the resistance to the occupation. The Palestinian Authority was formed following the Oslo Accords- on the basis of preventing resistance and maintaining security and stability. This tension on the political front has many implications, including disagreement regarding negotiations and carrying weapons. The ideological differences resulted in struggles for power and managing the conflict with Israel. Since signing the Oslo Accords, there have been many disagreements and tensions, which led to preventing Hamas from ruling after the elections. We were against the division and we tried to bring the two sides together but, like others, we did not succeed”.
According to Raed Salah, the head of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, the division is a result of external Arab and non-Arab interferences: “There are two main reasons for the division. The first is an external factor. There are some forces, led by the United States of America, that rejected any democratic options among the Palestinian people, even though the elections were fair. They rejected the elections and considered the winners as terrorists. There is no doubt that this created confusion among the Palestinians. Political development could have happened and the Palestinians would have accepted the results of the elections. Unfortunately, this put an end to this Palestinian dream. The observers and international stakeholders wanted different results to serve their interests; i.e. they wanted to control the conscience and opinions of the Palestinian people. The external forces did not stop at that point, but they also wanted the Authority to choose between reconciliation and losing all the privileges. Fatah has adopted several strategies, including negotiations under the condition of getting privileges. So far this role remains in place.
Unfortunately, some Arab countries have become partners in this game at the expense of the Palestinian interests. For example, the UAE does not only contribute to the division between the government of Gaza and the PA in Ramallah, but also tries to create a division within Abu Mazen’s government by highlighting the lines of Mohammed Dahlan, Barghouthi and Abu Mazen. There are divisions in Fatah itself and the fragmentation is still going on. Nobody is exempted from the need for criticizing the Palestinian political life. Some forces have kept their principles and positions while others have followed the philosophy of the political benefits since the Oslo Accords. Palestinian unity has become almost impossible. However, it is possible to go on with the Palestinian- Palestinian negotiations in order to agree on certain arrangements and steps. The Israeli occupation is benefiting from this division. Without it, it could not have attacked Gaza and their practices in Jerusalem would not have been as they are. The Palestinian Authority has not risen up to meet the challenges, and this is applies to the Palestinian division too.”
Based on these responses, we conclude that there are four main points of view regrading the reasons for the division. First, ideological differences between the two movements that led to disagreements between them and to the conflict since the establishment of Hamas. These disagreements became clearer after the 2006 elections. Second, fights for power that emerged in the aftermath of Hamas winning the 2006 legislative elections and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept their results. Third, foreign interventions, including from Arab nations. These foreign forces did not want Palestinian democracy to manifest itself and succeed; instead they wanted to dictate the policies of the Palestinian Authority. Fourth, the resistance methods that were adopted by Fatah and Hamas. Fatah adopted a peaceful approach that is based on negotiations with Israel, while Hamas chose an armed conflict with Israel.
3. The Palestinian Division: Consequences
The interviewees have also expressed their opinions regarding the consequences of the Palestinian Division. Asaad Ghanem pointed out that “The division hurt the Palestinian people. It has created a real rift in the Palestinian public, which damages the possibility of building a people that can challenge Israel and the West. Our strength is to have the ability to consolidate and come out with a single message to the Arab masses. This division has created a state of irrational stability. Rebuilding of the PLO is the solution in my opinion. Rebuilding it should be based on a political context. The two-state solution does not solve the Palestinian issue. This is what Abu Mazen has to understand.”
Aida Touma said that “There is certainly an effect. It is wrong to look at the world in the same way and to separate and distinguish between those who understand (Hamas and Fatah) and the world that wants to promote the Zionist and imperial goals. The first side is supportive. They felt the betrayal and the great setback; the crimes against the people hit their ambitions and gave the Israeli government an opportunity to implement its plans. The second one needs to know the real Hamas and its relations with Israel. It is not a resistance movement and the division can not be read without understanding the developments in the last five years.”
This was confirmed by Sheikh Raed Salah, who considered it a severe blow to the Palestinian national fabric. According to him, “The truth is that there are facts that we can not hide. When the military clash broke out in Gaza, the Follow-up Committee decided to intervene; we went to Ramallah and talked with Abu Mazen. Our position was that we came to say that the Palestinian cause belongs to all. We could not communicate with Gaza because of the security situation and our efforts stopped at that point. We tried later to renew the attempts, but once again we could not complete our mission, and that is not the main reason. We want from the Palestinian leadership not to contact us as parties, but as a follow-up committee, and on the basis of communication and coordination rather than guardianship. This did not happen and did not serve the goals of the Palestinians inside the Green Line. The Palestinian Authority did not do what was expected from it and we accepted the individual communication form. Had the Follow- Up Committee insisted on its position, we could have kept this form of communication and controlled it. Now, we are not looking for a speactator’s role; we would like to be real partners. It is time to hold elections for all the Palestinians including the Palestinians inside the Green Line. There is no doubt that all the sides are responsible for the way we communicate which is not satisfactory at all. I think there should be elections for the Follow-Up Committee and they should not be limited to the leaders of the parties. If this happens, we will have legitimacy on both the national and the international levels. The Follow-up Committee has taken a very simple step by electing its chairman by the General Council. This is a step in the right direction. We must support the success of the Follow-Up Committee. Time has come to tell our people that there should be elections for the leadership and membership of the Higher Follow-up Committee. If we succeed, then we need to participate in the elections of the PLO as a reference that preserves the Palestinian rights. It will govern all the practices of the Palestinian governments and factions. Any program that conflicts with the PLO’s should be ruled out.”
According to Dr. Abu Jaber, the division served Israel’s interests when the conflict between Fatah and Hamas started and weakened one of the fronts with Israel. On the political level, the division negatively affected the relations between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and had a negative impact on the social level. Economically, the Gaza Strip was besieged and financial aid was cut off by donor countries. This has led to high unemployment, poverty, death, diseases and the inability of students to go to their universities. As a result, the government of Ismail Haniyeh resigned. Some countries, such as Qatar, had a positive effect. Qatar gave money to Gaza and funded some housing projects and so it created jobs. The price was freezing religious relationships with Iran. However; the situation did not satisfy Egypt, which has been involved in the siege of Gaza, for different reasons including Hamas’s political support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Although Israel allowed economic and medical aid, Egypt imposed a suffocating siege on the Gaza Strip. As we mentioned earlier, the division is in Israel’s best interest. The Israeli government threatened Abu Mazin to choose between Hamas and Israel. The Follow-Up Committee and the Arab parties made many visits to Ramallah. Israel is a part in the Palestinian division, which means that the Arabs have to unite and the Palestinians have to understand that the division serves Israel. Some reactionary, liberal and secular Arab countries that considers Islam terrorism have to understand this. This should not prevent the 1948 Arabs from having their own initiatives and vision to bring the two sides together. I think that this is not likely to happen.”
According to Dr. Zahalka, these events weakened the Palestinian position, both on the Arab and the international levels. The Palestinian issue is viewed as a struggle between Hamas and Fatah rather than as a struggle against the Israeli occupation. According to him ”the division has certainly weakened the Palestinian position, especially within the civil society. When we talk about the European or American societies, there is a challenge to the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, and Israel has claimed that Abu Mazen does not represent the Palestinians because of the division. When we get to the point of reconciliation, Israel is against it because it does not serve its interests. The other point is that Israel wants to divide and conquer. The division has weakened the Palestinian position and prevented them from coming up with a unified vision. This division had a bad impact on the popular opposition to the occupation and it has become difficult to agree on a plan. It also encouraged
Israel to attack Gaza. The results of the division were disastrous for the Palestinian people.”
According to Isam Makhoul, the division negatively affected the Palestinians’ cause on the international stage. Instead of putting pressure on Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinians, the world started putting pressure on the Palestinians to reconcile. In his view, “First, the status of the Palestinian issue has suffered after the division, and the Israeli aggression and violence towards the Palestinian people has increased. Solidarity with Gaza against occupation and siege is no longer as it was in the past. Israel is not interested in eliminating Hamas, neither politically nor militarily. Israel used Hamas to control the Palestinian people, to crush ordinary people and to teach others a lesson, to convince them to give up on their dream of independence, and to create new generations that know nothing but rockets and alike. Because of these rockets, Israel gets away from the political solutions and ignores international resolutions. The independence of Hamas in Gaza was accompanied by abandoning the principles of the Palestinian Authority. On the one hand, Hamas has broken away. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, in order to preserve its position vis-a-vis the United States, Israel and the Western world, has made concessions and accepted policies that are not compatible with the national struggle, especially on security and other issues. This strengthened the siege against Gaza and led to serious concessions made by the Palestinian Authority. It harmed the Palestinian cause despite the great sacrifices that were made by the Palestinian people. The Palestinian cause has become at the hands of the reactionary Arabs: the Arab League, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States and others. Qatar and Turkey adopted Hamas. The Palestinians have always tried to avoid such a situation.
All the countries in the region have the power to influence the Palestinian cause. For the enemies, including Israel and their sponsors (the Western countries), this is a comfortable situation. They can justify the Israeli aggression. The Palestinians pay the price of this division.”
Asaad Ghanem agreed with him stating that “In my opinion, the Palestinians have become ridiculous in the eyes of the world and Israel. This has weakened the struggle of the Palestinians against the occupation even internationally, and Israel is the only beneficiary of that. This has led to the deterioration of the Palestinian national project of ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state. This situation has also led to the lack of credibility and disappointment of the Palestinians. They appeared as a nation that cannot build a state and increased the levels of poverty and unemployment.”
Dr. Ahmed Tibi pointed out that these events affected the situation in Gaza economically and socially, and the siege on Gaza increased poverty and food scarcity. He said that “The economic situation deteriorated in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the social fabric was severely damaged. There are problems inside the family between the supporters of Fatah and Hamas. The economic situation is deteriorating, Hamas is besieged from all directions, and the economy in the West Bank is not doing well at all.”
Mohammed Baraka thinks that the Palestinian Issue has suffered because of what happened: “The World’s view of the Palestinians has changed dramatically after the division. As a member of the Knesset, I always said that Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians. They asked whether they should negotiate with Hamas or Fatah. Israel has had a major role in the division, and has promoted it internationally to benefit from it. There is no doubt that the Palestinian cause has become weak in international forums after the division. It is true that the popular solidarity movement with the Palestinian people in the world has dropped mainly after Oslo. After the Oslo Accords, some believed that the Palestinian state would only negotiate, that the negotiations were going well and there is no need for international solidarity. But the real reason is the division; there is no longer any clarity on the Palestinian side, and there are two authorities, two governments and so on. The Palestinian communities in Europe are also divided between the two sides. This does not contribute to having real cooperation with the world and has bad effects on the Palestinians in the diaspora.”
Although the respondents have slightly different opinions regarding the events in Gaza, their influence on the Palestinian cause, the Inter-Palestinian relations, the peace process and the international positions, they have agreed that it has badly impacted the Palestinian cause in international forums and the Palestinian relations with other countries. They are also in agreement that it has weakened the Palestinian stance in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
These events affected the Palestinian people through the siege and the resultant difficult economic and social conditions, especially in the Gaza Strip, as the latter has suffered from a brutal siege and the struggle between fellow Palestinians. In addition, Israel put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to obey its policies, built more settlements and confiscated more land.
4. Future Reconciliation
In order to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, it is no longer necessary to come up with new initiatives, as there are already many initiatives that can be implemented. The main obstacle is the lack of a genuine desire to end the division after both sides have found ways to live with it. A true reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas requires formulating a Palestinian socio-political contract that defines the fundamental national issues and broad outlines. It should also be distanced from monopoly and the temptations of power and governance in both Ramallah and Gaza. Only in this sphere the two movements can coexist with each other. But, for that to happen, each movement should get into two reconciliations: with the national project to restore its relationship with it, and with itself to restrain its narcissism and exclusionary tendencies that prevent its coexistence with others.
This type of reconciliation may take place through the adoption of the following proposals. First, redefining the Palestinian interim and strategic goals, based on the fundamental points of the national project with its geographical and demographic boundaries. As the two-state solution has disappeared because of Oslo, and the one-state solution is not realistic because of the Israeli policies, it is necessary for the Palestinians to make their main aspirations clear (establishing an independent state or only being granted civil rights) and then decide how to achieve them.
Second, assessing the current Palestinian reality in light of the failure of negotiations and opposition to Israel as well as their results over the past two decades. It is necessary to reconsider the right approach towards Israel, not on the basis of the points that each side can score from, but on the basis of serving the national interests of the Palestinian people. This will allow for a unified message to Israel and the rest of the world. Third, the structure of both the PLO and the Palestinian Authority should be revisited in order to serve the national project and to develop the most appropriate tools to achieve it. This is based on the restoration of the PLO by the Palestinian Authority (after rehabilitating the former). The result can be a “Palestinian Liberation Authority” that does not undermine the national rights.
Fourth, reviving the Palestinian democracy and political movements by renewing their structure and programs as well as by holding elections and adopting effective formulas for a healthy political process. In addition, accountability is necessary to make these movements more dynamic so that they can lead the process toward achieving independence.
This paper reviews the views of leading Israeli Arab figures regarding the Palestinian Division that emerged after Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections. I have found areas of agreement and disagreement about the causes of this division. On the other had, there is a broad agreement about the role of Israel in this division as well as the implications of this division for the lives of Palestinian and the position of the Palestinians at the international stage. In particular, the participants believe that this division has caused socio-economic hardships, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and made the International Community less sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The participants also view the division as a hurdle facing the Palestinian aspirations for establishing an independent Palestinian state.