All Thinking on Gaza is Unrealistic

All Thinking on Gaza is Unrealistic

In July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a meeting at the presidential palace between the respective leaders of Fatah and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh. The purpose was to achieve unity between the two competing Palestinian groups, a recurring goal of Erdogan’s that has not been successful. In the pre-October 7 world, Erdogan repeatedly insisted that Hamas is not a terrorist group and refused Israel’s demands that he expel Hamas leaders from his country. His belief was that disunity between Fatah, which runs the West Bank, and Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, is a hindrance to the Palestinian cause and regional security. And it appears that this is still his belief.

Amid signs that Hamas’ political wing and Fatah are exploring a reconciliation process, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that Turkey is in the loop on ongoing talks between the two rival Palestinian groups.

“[Hamas and Fatah] are in talks, and it is possible for them to take these talks further,” Erdogan said. “I believe that there are many things that we, as Turkey, have done and can do on this issue,” the Turkish president was quoted as telling reporters on his return from Hungary, according to an official transcript released on Tuesday.

Describing the rival groups as being like “flesh and bone,” he said, “Right now, we need to strive to preserve this unity.”

I haven’t seen other sources that describe current reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. But, if true, it helps flesh out some of the widespread delusional thinking that is going on in the world’s capitals.

We can begin in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Christmas which laid out the prerequisites for peace. They are collectively unrealistic. Perhaps Israel can succeed in destroying Hamas’s control over Gaza, but he rejects any effort to let Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority, take over in their place. In his mind, Mahmoud Abbas is a terrorist in his own right who has refused to condemn the October 7 attacks, has provided money to the families of suicide bombers in the past, “currently funds and glorifies terrorism” in the West Bank, “and educates Palestinian children to seek the destruction of Israel.”

Netanyahu then provides a vision for the “successful deradicalization” of the Palestinian people, likening it to the transformations of Germany and Japan from World War Two foes of the west to stalwart allies. This was echoed earlier in the week by Tzachi Hanegbi, Mr. Netanyahu’s national security adviser, who told the press, “We have a vision of a new Gaza headed by people who are sane and not hateful.”

Yet, the way Israel is conducting the war is radicalizing Muslims all over the world, and not just in Palestine.

The evidence shows that Israel has carried out its war in Gaza at a pace and level of devastation that likely exceeds any recent conflict, destroying more buildings, in far less time, than were destroyed during the Syrian regime’s battle for Aleppo from 2013 to 2016 and the U.S.-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, in 2017.

Still, if Israel rejects the leadership of both Hamas and Fatah, what hope is there for Erdogan’s plan?

In Washington, DC, the hope is to revive the Palestinian Authority with new blood and place a unified leadership in charge of both Gaza and the West Bank, but the Israelis are treating this like a non-starter. As the Washington Post reports, the Biden administration cannot even convince Israel to give the Palestinian Authority tax revenue they are owed for salaries. And the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is chafing over demands for reform.

Still, the U.S. requests have rankled Ramallah. “It’s always this colonizing mentality, whereby, ‘We decide your leadership, we are the ones basically designing your strategy for the day after, we tell you how to live, we tell you how to breathe, and we tell you how to run your land,’” [adviser to Abbas and member of the central committee for Fatah, Sabri] Saidam said.

I can understand that Saidam is angry considering that he has lost more than 44 members of his extended family since the war began. But the simple truth is that Fatah is being offered something it could never achieve on its own. The Palestinian people have lost all confidence in the organization.

Some 88 percent of Palestinians want [Fatah leader Mahmoud] Abbas to resign, the poll indicated, up 10 points from three months ago. The popularity of Hamas in the West Bank, meanwhile, has soared from 12 percent to 44 percent, while also rising slightly in Gaza…

…The [Palestinian] authority, set up in 1994 out of the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, was originally conceived as an interim body on the path to Palestinian statehood.

But while it presents some of the trappings of a government, the authority operates under Israeli occupation. And its security cooperation with the occupying power means that many Palestinians believe it helps enforce Israel’s will.

“The people see the Palestinian Authority as a guardian for the occupiers,” said Saif Aqel, a Fatah youth leader. Frustrated young people are returning to the armed resistance rejected by the authority. Still, he said, any leader imposed from the outside is unacceptable.

As I sit here thinking about this, it occurs to me that prior to World War One, Palestine was run by the colonizing Ottoman Empire, now represented by Erdogan in Ankara. I can’t think of a time where the locals had real autonomy going back to the Roman occupation in the 1st Century. The one thing that united Arabs and Jews in the interwar period was a mutual loathing of British occupiers. And when an election actually happened in Gaza, Hamas defeated Fatah. There hasn’t been an election in theWest Bank since precisely because Fatah would lose.

The only thing that could make Fatah more popular with the Palestinian people is for them to cease all cooperation with Israel and rejoin the armed resistance and yet they’re not sounding enthusiastic about having support from the United States to achieve unified power again.

I know this situation is fucked up beyond all recognition but it’s not good when Jerusalem, Ramallah, Ankara and Washington DC are all talking their own brand of delusional nonsense. Hamas is obviously not going to be reconciled with Fatah, and it wouldn’t be a positive development if they were. Fatah has no popular mandate whatsoever and couldn’t govern Gaza in a way that eliminates the threat to southern Israel. They don’t even want to try. And Israel can’t turn the Palestinians into West Germans by obliterating Gaza and then occupying the ruins.

All of this thinking is wrong, which probably means we’re headed for even worse outcomes. If there is a solution, it’s not currently under discussion.

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About The Author

Martin Longman

Martin Longman a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly. He is also the founder of Booman Tribune and Progress Pond. He has a degree in philosophy from Western Michigan University.

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