Why Did the Palestinian Unity Government Fail? Crux of The Matter
02 August 2015
By Khalid Amayreh
The same factors that caused the lingering reconciliation process between
Fatah and Hamas to fail stand behind the failure of the Palestinian national
unity government, headed by Rami al-Hamdalla.
Very few observers of the Palestinian political scene had expected the
so-called national unity government to succeed. The reasons are many and have
mainly to do with the chronic and seemingly irreconcilable differences
between the Islamic Liberation Movement, Hamas, and the nationalist secular
The two sides have been trying, rather in vain, to reach a reconciliation
pact. However, due to the dominant and omnipresent "Israeli factor" as well
as the deep mutual mistrust and absence of good will on both sides,
reconciliation efforts effectively reached a dead-end.
Indeed, by analyzing the outcome of numerous rounds of talks between the two
sides, one would get the impression that the sides not only spoke in terms of
cross-purposes but rather harbored different and occasionally paradoxical
For example, Fatah, the mainstream faction of the PLO, headed by the elderly
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, saw the "endgame" of any reconciliation
process with Hamas as more or less amounting to enabling Fatah to revert to
the status-quo ante that prevailed in the Gaza Strip prior to Hamas's "coup"
or "military intervention" which dismantled the PLO security apparatus and
ousted Fatah's militiamen from the coastal enclave.
On the other hand, Hamas views any return to the pre-1996 setup as being
tantamount to political suicide. Hence, any concessions that would seriously
undermine Hamas's security dominance in Gaza, e.g. the Izzidin al-Kassam
Brigades, are quite unthinkable as far as the Islamist group is concerned.
Crux of the matter
In fact, this is undoubtedly the main contentious issue impeding genuine
reconciliation between the two sides.
Fatah has repeatedly and ostensibly convincingly argued that any "unity
government" wouldn't be able to rule without having "complete" security
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah leader, complained recently that Hamas
"only wanted us to be a mere ATM (automated telling machine) for Hamas."
The high-ranking Fatah official was apparently alluding to incessant demands
by Hamas that the PA must pay the salaries of all Gaza employees, including
security personnel hired by Hamas.
Initially, the PA agreed. However, due to a combination of lack of funds and
absence of good will, the PA commitment to this effect was never carried out
in good faith.
More to the point, the recurrent arrests of Hamas's supporters in the West
Bank served to widen and deepen the gap of mutual mistrust and suspicion,
with Hamas accusing the PA of being at Israel's beck and call in the context
of the security coordination regime between the Israeli occupation army and
PA security agencies.
Fatah often sought to defend the arrests by arguing that the detained
Islamist activists in the West Bank were not arrested on political grounds
but rather on security grounds. Fatah also suggested that the persecution of
Hamas supporters in the West Bank was a quid-pro-quo for a persecution of
Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip.
Finally, it has been noticed that Fatah and allied PLO factions have been
dragging their feet on erstwhile understandings with Hamas to allow the
Islamic group and its junior sister, the Islamic Jihad, to join the PLO
According to various pundits, PLO factions are worried that the umbrella
organization, viewed as the sole and only legitimate representative of the
Palestinian people, would morph into an entirely different body if a strong
and ideologically-heterogeneous group like Hamas became a full member of the
The Israeli factor
One of the least talked about factor behind the failure of both the
reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah and the unity government is
the dominant Israeli factor.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu repeatedly warned that the PA
leadership would have to choose either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel
because it couldn't choose both.
However, most Palestinian observers, including this writer, believe that in
the final analysis, Hamas is a "virtual red herring" for Netanyahu who uses
the Hamas golem to divert attention from his own extremism, intransigence and
At the end of the day, Netanyahu, not Hamas, is responsible for the
liquidation of the two-state solution prospect due to the intensive and
ubiquitous expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Hence, one could
candidly argue that it is Netanyahu, not Hamas, that effectively decapitated
any remaining hopes for the two-state solution.
Finally, one of the key issues that would conceivably expedite a lasting
Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is the organization of
general elections in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East
However, Hamas is worried, and rightly so, that such elections would be a
trap to strangle the movement.
Hamas knows that Israel would round up most or all of the candidates on the
eve of the elections day probably in collusion with the PA; hence, Hamas's
reluctance to agree on unconditional polls in the absence of meaningful
Needless to say, the only party that could give such guarantees is Israel
which considers Hamas a terrorist group bent on its destruction.
Khalid Amayreh is a Palestinian journalist and current affairs political
commentator living in Occupied Palestine