The ceasefire negotiations between Israel and the Hamas terror group’s regime in Gaza point to a central truth about the nature of the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Before anyone speaks any more about a possible “deal of the century,” or a “two-state solution,” it is imperative that the implications of those talks be fully understood.
The ceasefire talks are being held between the sides of two separate international coalitions. On the one side are Israel, the U.S., and Egypt. On the other side are Hamas, Qatar, and Turkey.
The party that has been most notably absent from the discussions is the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA, which was formed in 1994 in the framework of talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, is charged with running the Palestinian autonomous areas that Israel transferred to PLO control. Until June 2007, that included the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria.
In 2006, the PA held elections to its legislative council. Hamas won. In 2007, Hamas forcibly ejected the PA from Gaza and set up its own terror regime, which has ruled – with public support – ever since.
The PLO is an umbrella organization that includes several aligned Palestinian terror groups. Fatah, which was established by Yasser Arafat in 1958, is the largest faction of the PLO. Until his death in 2004, Arafat headed Fatah, the PLO and the PA. His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, similarly sits at the helm of all three groups.
Since it was established in 1964, the PLO has insisted that it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Since the PA was established in 1994, the PLO has sought to convince Hamas, the Muslim-Brotherhood’s Palestinian terror affiliate, to join its ranks. Although Hamas and Fatah have negotiated multiple unity deals since then, many of which involved Hamas joining the PLO, none of the deals was ever fully implemented.
Since Hamas ousted Fatah forces from Gaza, on the ground, PA/Fatah has served as Hamas’s financier and diplomatic representative. It has used the internationally-funded PA budget to pay for Hamas’s regime in Gaza. Abbas’s PLO representative Azzam al-Ahmad served as the chief Palestinian negotiator in ceasefire talks that brought an end to Hamas’s 50 day war against Israel in 2014. The PLO’s international delegations represented Hamas’s positions in forums like the UN.
The PA/Fatah was apparently blindsided by the current round of ceasefire discussions. In these discussions, being carried out indirectly with Israel through several different mediators, Hamas is not using the PA to represent it. And this makes sense.
To show his frustration with Hamas’s refusal to cede control over Gaza to the PA in any significant way, in April 2017, Abbas stopped paying Hamas’s electricity bills. He also stopped transferring money for salaries to the Hamas regime in April 2018. Given the acrimony between the two sides, it is little wonder that Hamas, uninterested in ceding its power, decided to represent itself in its ceasefire negotiations.
Abbas stubbornly refuses to accept his growing irrelevance. Rather than trying to maneuver himself into a senior negotiating role, Abbas has boycotted the talks. He has soured his relations with the Sisi regime in Egypt, by — among other things — refusing to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, who is overseeing ceasefire negotiations with Hamas.
Until a few weeks ago, Sisi was Abbas’s strongest supporter. He accepted Abbas’s demand that Fatah reassert its control over Gaza in any ceasefire deal. But Abbas’s recalcitrance and contempt for Sisi’s regime have brought relations to a low point. Sisi, like Israel, believes it is more urgent to prevent another war than empower the feckless Fatah leader.
Abbas’s behavior has also won him the contempt of several PLO factions. While Fatah boycotts the Cairo talks, almost every other PLO faction is participating in them. The participation of the likes of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in the talks shows that Abbas’s long-held plan to incorporate Hamas into the PLO has been turned on its head. The PLO is joining Hamas.
And this brings us to the main reality that the current ceasefire talks expose.
Since Hamas took over Gaza 11 years ago, the U.S., Egypt, and Israel have believed to varying degrees that Gaza is a sideshow. The main story is Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
Like all previous U.S. peace proposals, Trump’s “deal of the century” is reportedly focused on Judea and Samaria and the PA, not on Gaza and Hamas.
But the ceasefire discussions have shown that Gaza and Hamas are the only game in town.
Since Israel removed all of its civilians and military forces from Gaza in 2005 and abandoned the area, Gaza has been an entirely independent Palestinian territory. It has international borders with Israel and Egypt. It has a population it controls. It is a Palestinian state in everything but name. On the other hand, in Judea and Samaria, there is a Palestinian autonomy inside a larger area controlled by Israel.
As Abbas said in a speech Saturday panning the ceasefire talks, “There is no state in Gaza and an autonomy in the West Bank, and we will not accept this. We will never accept the separation of Gaza [from the West Bank].”
What Abbas left out was that the reason the Palestinians do not have a state in Judea and Samaria is because the PA/Fatah, under both Arafat and Abbas, rejected multiple Israel and U.S offers of statehood. There is no Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria because the PLO/Fatah/PLO doesn’t want one.
Which brings us back to the Hamas state in Gaza.
Abbas also said, “Either we take responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza under one state, one regime, one law, and one weapons, or Hamas will take responsibility [for the West Bank].
The situation in Gaza proves that is a lie. The options aren’t Fatah or Hamas. They are Israel or Hamas.
In 2004, Israel decimated Hamas’s leadership in Gaza. The next year it walked away from Gaza, handing the area to the PA/Fatah lock, stock and barrel.
Rather than use the opportunity to build a state, the PA/Fatah militarized Gaza and orchestrated ever escalating mortar and rocket assaults against Israel. Gaza’s militarization and the open transfer of massive quantities of armaments to Gaza through the Egyptian border gave Hamas the ability to rebuild its forces — and, in less than two years, oust Fatah from power.
Like the PA, Hamas uses its control over Gaza not to build a state but to expand its ability to strike Israel. This it has achieved by, among other things, developing close relations with Iran, Turkey, and Qatar, serving as an arm of their foreign policies towards Israel, Egyptm and the wider Islamic world. Hamas has also developed close ties with the so-called “Islamic State” and affiliated al Qaeda organizations that operate in Gaza and Sinai. Like the PA, Hamas has used Europe’s hostility towards Israel, and the Islamic bloc’s control over UN agencies (including the UN General Assembly), to mask its crimes and blame Israel for its aggression against the Jewish state.
Despite Hamas’s failure to develop Gaza economically, and its use of Gaza’s civilian population as human shields behind which it builds its military capabilities and attacks Israel, the people of Gaza have maintained their support for the terror regime.
Far from pushing it out for failure to govern in any recognizable sense of the term, a majority of Gazans continue to support the jihadist group and to share its program of continuous warfare against Israel, with the aim of annihilating the Jewish state. Moreover, polling data show that if elections were held in Judea and Samaria, Hamas would win them.
All of this leads to one clear conclusion.
Hamas-ruled Gaza is what a Palestinian state looks like. It is what a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would look like if any U.S. or other peace proposal that requires Israel to transfer control over the areas to the PA/Fatah is implemented.
The Palestinians – as a people – are not interested in establishing an independent state. They are committed to annihilating Israel. This is why all of their political factions are terror groups. That’s why one of Abbas’s possible successors is in prison for five counts of terrorist murder and the other has called for Israel to be wiped out with nuclear weapons.
This is why, in a bid to shore up popular support for Fatah, Abbas is calling for a renewal of terror attacks against Israel. And this is why Hamas, whose record is one unblemished by phony peace processes with Israel, is more respected and trusted by the Palestinians in Gaza and Judea and Samaria.
Last week, Trump’s top advisors on the Palestinian conflict with Israel, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley,, and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman issued a statement on their much touted plan.
“No one will be fully pleased with our proposal, but that’s the way it must be if real peace is to be achieved. Peace can only succeed if it is based on realities,” it read.
While it is true that peace can succeed only if it is based on reality, it is also true that there is no realistic prospect for peace. Hamas’s terror state in Gaza is the apotheosis of Palestinian aspirations. This is what the Palestinians seek to build in Judea and Samaria and, in due course, this is what they want all of Israel to become.
Under the circumstances, the Trump administration has a choice to make. Does it want Judea and Samaria to look like Gaza? Or does it want Judea and Samaria to look like Israel? The ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are proof that there is no third option.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.