Palestinian Reconciliation and the Rising Power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad: An Iranian Windfall

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi - Fatah and Hamas are continuing to talk in an attempt to translate the reconciliation agreement, signed between the sides on April 23, 2014, into a series of operative steps. These primarily involve integrating Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO institutions, setting up a unity government, and preparing for new parliamentary and presidential elections. The PA has rejected the demand that Hamas must accept the Quartet principles (renouncing terror, recognizing Israel, and recognizing the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO and the PA) before being allowed into the government or the PLO institutions. Abbas vehemently claims that Hamas is not a terror organization. Abbas' consent to integrating Islamic Jihad into the PLO implies he does not regard it as a terror group either. Abbas needs Hamas' cooperation to make it appear that the government of the PA exists in Gaza as well. With the PA striving for international recognition, this is of supreme importance. Hamas is clearly pleased with the international stamp of approval it expects to attain with Abbas' help. The entry ticket Abbas is providing Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO enables them to compete for control of the PLO institutions and, through elections, to take the helm of the Palestinian national movement. In the 2006 parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas won an overwhelming majority. Thus Hamas sees a historic opportunity to upgrade its current status and is competing to become the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people both in Palestine and the diaspora. By repeatedly defying the United States, and being prepared to integrate Islamic Jihad as well into the PLO, and possibly also other Islamic terror organizations, Abbas is signaling that he is no longer in the American camp. Instead he is adopting positions of the rejectionist camp and seeking closer ties with Iran, ally of Hamas and patron of Islamic Jihad. The writer is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.

2014-05-14 00:00:00

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