May 18, 2022

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Despite 15 years of enmity between Hamas and Fatah, the Biden administration is pushing for a unity government as another route to getting the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel.

REPORT: Biden calls for Palestinian unity

A report in i24News on Tuesday cited an Israeli government source as saying that the Biden administration is developing an initiative to create a joint Hamas-Fatah unity government to rule over Gaza as well as a Palestinian state inside Judea and Samaria. The joint government would include representatives from Hamas and Fatah and economic professionals who are not affiliated with a political party.

The initiative is premised on the belief that a unity government will negotiate with Israel for a “two-state solution” that will create an unprecedented Palestinian state inside Israel’s border that is ethnically cleansed of Jews and has its capital in Jerusalem.

No precedent for Palestinian unity

But the initiative faces severe obstacles.

“The Palestinian Authority will not respond to any American initiative as long as there is no decision regarding the opening of the consulate,” Dr. Ahmad al-Majdalani, the PA’s minister for social development, told i24NEWS.

There is no precedent for cooperation between Hamas and Fatah, also known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The death of Fatah’s head Yasser Arafat in 2004 and the Israeli pullout from Gush Katif the following, elections were held.  Fighting broke out between the two factions after Hamas,  an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, won the 2006 elections in Gaza leading to a Hamas military takeover. resulting in over 600 killed. Human Rights Watch accused both sides of violations of international humanitarian law, including the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with “TV” insignias. The Hamas-led government refused to commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, or acceptance of any previous agreements. 

Fatah was relegated to heading the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah though violent clashes between the two factions continue to this day. During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict the Shin Bet revealed an alleged plot by Hamas to depose Fatah rule in the West Bank. 

Two reconciliation agreements were signed in 2014 further complicating matters and angering both the US and Israel. Hamas has explicitly stated its dedication to the genocide of the Jewish people and is classified as a terrorist organization by most countries. An alliance with Hamas would preclude Fatah’s negotiations with Israel. 

In 2017, a joint pledge to form a unity government was made after Hamas-Fatah negotiations n Moscow. The unity government failed to materialize.

In February, the Palestinian news site Amad reported that the Palestinian Authority sent an official letter to the White House claiming that all factions, including Hamas, were committed to establishing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 ceasefire lines with east Jerusalem as its capital. The letter claimed that all Palestinian factions were committed to a peaceful transfer of power through elections. Legislative and presidential elections were scheduled for May 22 and July 31. It is believed that the initiative to hold elections came from the newly-elected Biden administration which had reestablished relations with the Palestinian Authority. The elections never materialized. Had they taken place, they would have been the first since 2005.

Instead of an election, both the PA and Hamas After the conflict in May which saw Palestinian violence inside Israel and over 4,600 rockets fired at Israeli cities from Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinians Authority, again called for a unity government which went unheeded.