Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

Fatah’s Conflict with Hamas Over ‘The Ultimate Deal’ Heats Up

Fatah leaders accusing Hamas of trying to cut separate deal with the U.S.

[Ramallah] Following Saturday’s attack on the Gaza television and radio studio that is funded by the Palestinian Authority and the broadcast facility of Palestinian Television and Voice of Palestine Radio, Palestinian leaders are accusing Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, of having secretly signed-off on the so-called “ultimate deal” — a not-yet revealed U.S.-led peace initiative intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the style of President Trump, the deal-maker-in-chief.

The raid on the Gaza City facility was said to have caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Initially, the PA presumed the act was carried out by Hamas; the accusations that followed highlighting the conflict between the PA/Fatah and Hamas, which has intensified in anticipation of the release of the long-awaited Trump peace plan. The so-called “Ultimate Deal” is spearheaded by son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner and the president’s representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt.

The PA’s response to the attack at the station reprised recent speculation that the Iranian and Qatari-funded group is seeking a separate deal with Washington that end-runs rival Fatah. The scenario dovetails with recent speculation that the Trump plan includes a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.

Jamal Muhaisan, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Committee told a local Palestinian radio station that Hamas was behind the attack to “end any aspect of sovereignty in the Strip, in an effort to establish a state in Gaza, within the ‘deal of the century.’”

However, the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza said the studio was trashed by disgruntled employees, who, like other PA-paid staff, have had their salaries slashed in recent months because of the budgetary crisis.

Unconvinced by the Hamas scenario, Muhaisan insisted that the Islamist group had an additional message to deliver in carrying out the attack – which coincidentally occurred while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo regarding ongoing efforts to forge a reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas factions. He argues that Hamas “aggressively” wants Abbas to understand that “there is no reconciliation and the file of it should be closed.”

Muhaisan claimed that Hamas has informed Israeli officials that it is moving towards accepting the “ultimate deal” and may try to set up an independent Palestinian state in Gaza.

“Certainly there are leaks about ideas of the deal of the century by the American administration itself,” a senior Palestinian official who asked not to be named for reasons of personal security told The Media Line.

The official explained that none of the leaks are final or necessarily accurate, but they help the people who are responsible for creating the deal shape it in a way that would make it work.

“The leaks about the declaration of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza are out and both sides are discussing the idea. Hamas is promoting itself as a legitimate body that is capable to rule a future independent Palestinian state in Gaza.”

He continued, saying that in order for the Islamic movement to be seen in a positive light, it has to be a member of the PLO and end the Palestinian division. “Fatah [the largest faction of the PLO, from which the leaders of the PA have been drawn] also has to compromise and negotiate [with] Hamas, otherwise, the latter would move on with its plans and that won’t serve a Palestinian national agenda.”

Hanna Issa, a Palestinian political analyst, affirmed to The Media Line that all of the leaks are uncertain since the final plan hasn’t been published yet, and until then would be pointless to make any kind of political decisions or take positions based on them. “They [the leaks] are a waste of time, especially for the Palestinians who lack any political plan or approach,” he said, pointing out that the Palestinians need to be realistic and work towards achieving reconciliation, build a political program and hold elections before fighting each other.

Issa believes that the basis of the deal has been implemented already by the U.S. declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, ending aid to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, and allowing continued Israeli control of the water resources and allowing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “The only hope that [is] left for the Palestinians to protect their rights and properties is to support [a] one-state solution.”

But some Palestinians see it differently. Mahmoud Hashem, a Palestinian citizen, accused both Hamas and Fatah of using “the deal” to distract from their own limitations and conflicts: “They want to cover their inabilities. They want to escape from their national duties to their personal and political party ones.”

Hashem stressed that both sides must work towards serving one national agenda for the Palestinians as a whole.

Last month, the PA took aim at Greenblatt, calling the White House envoy an “arrogant colonist” and an “ally of [Israeli] settlements.” The denunciation followed the publication of an article by Greenblatt in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds in which he contended that Palestinians “deserve more from their leadership than political statements and bargaining positions.”

Greenblatt noted that the PA’s boycott of American officials — imposed by Abbas in December following Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — had not stopped him from meeting with Palestinians.

The much-anticipated peace proposal reportedly has been completed, although there remains internal disagreement on when to present the plan due to the PA’s refusal to engage in any American-led negotiating process and also because of political instability within Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters it would be another “several months” before the “deal” is finally released. Acknowledging the Israeli elections as part of the reason but added that the White House wants the release to come when the plan has the greatest chance of success. And that, he said, will require some additional “smoothing and wordsmithing.”

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