Monday, December 26, 2011

Unity! Hamas detains more Fatah members in Gaza

Since the original "unity" discussions in May, the major demand by both Hamas and Fatah has been a very simple one: to release the political prisoners of the other party.

And nothing has happened. For eight months.

On the contrary, both sides have continued to accuse the other of detaining and arresting their members even as soothing words continue to come from their supposed leaders in Cairo.

The latest such event happened today, as nine Fatah members were summoned to appear by Hamas security in central Gaza.

Similarly, Hamas denied a report in Asharq al-Awsat that it now allows Fatah-oriented newspapers to be distributed in Gaza as part of the unity agreements made in Cairo. In a statement, Hamas said that it was irresponsible to report lies like this, and it pointed out that Fatah has restricted Gaza reporters from working in the West Bank as well.

So while Fatah and Hamas continue to pretend that they are making great strides in Cairo, the facts on the ground in Gaza and Ramallah indicate something quite the opposite.

The impression one gets is that they are more interested in maintaining the appearance of unification - to forestall a Palestinian Arab Spring - than in actually doing anything concrete.

Their game playing will inevitably come to a head in the coming year as more promises get broken and planned unification steps get delayed. Fatah and Hamas will be quick to create committees and set up meetings, but the people will notice the paucity of actual results soon enough.

And when the two groups feel pressured to actually do something, the ideologues of Hamas will prevail over the milquetoast leaders of Fatah. After all, Hamas' red lines are a lot starker than Fatah's, and in a battle of ideologies, Fatah will blink first. Just like it collapsed in Gaza fighting with Hamas, so it will cave in the face of Hamas' intransigence.

One major reason is that in the end, Fatah's goals are congruent with Hamas'. Fatah wants to see Israel destroyed as much as Hamas does, just they want to see it done in a Western-friendly manner. For Fatah, peace was never a goal, it was a means to an end. And without a real commitment to peace - not just mouthing words in English to New York Times columnists, but a real commitment - peace doesn't stand a chance.