Danger of Widening Palestinian Rifts

  • 20 July 2009

As the Palestinian issue faces many challenges, various Palestinian groups and forces should try to come closer to counter the challenges, rather than widen their conflict. The recent round of dialogue, which was hosted by Cairo last Saturday, pointed to not only the continuation of differences between Fatah and Hamas, but also the widening chasm between the two factions, as both movements decided to set new conditions for resolving their differences and for making the dialogue successful.

The threat of this escalation and growing differences have arisen at a time when the Netanyahu Government has tried to implement the most dangerous scheme against Jerusalem, when it announced last week to remove the names of Arab localities in the city and maintain only their Hebrew names. It has also decided to reject the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees, and said it was also thinking of deporting the 1948 Palestinians again, and continue building colonies. These events confirm that inter-Palestinians differences currently constitute the most serious threat to the Palestinian cause for several reasons. First, these differences destroy any hope of achieving national reconciliation in the near future and exacerbate chances of greater divisions.  More problems and complications are now surfacing. Hamas leadership has made statements, at the sideline of the recent dialogue in Cairo, that have undermined the importance of dialogue and have even questioned its continued relevance. Undoubtedly, this would lead to a state of frustration among Palestinian people and could lead to dangerous and unpredictable repercussions—like the return of violence and internal strife. Second, these differences are undermining the image of the Palestinian cause at the international level, and are impeding the work of Arab forces that are seeking to revive the peace process by urging the relevant international parties to put pressure on Israel to revert to the terms of reference of the peace process in a difficult situation. Third, these differences would provide the radical Netanyahu Government the opportunity to renege from its commitments of peace by presenting the excuse of a non-existent Palestinian partner for negotiations.  This was clearly stated by Israeli Foreign Minister  Avigdor Lieberman a few days ago, when he questioned the legitimacy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The challenges currently facing the Palestinian cause should force squabbling Palestinian factions to work together to ensure the develop of the dialogue process and to achieve national reconciliation to develop a strategy for governance, power and relationship with Israel that does not compromise the fundamentals of the cause, nor undermines the rights of Palestinian legitimacy.