On April 25, in the wake of the collapse of the so called "peace negotiations" between the Palestinian Authority and Israel under the auspices of John Kerry, the US Secretary of State expressed his frustration at the Trilateral Commission in New York, saying that "if there was no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risked becoming ‘an apartheid state’". (1)
Later on, under pressure from Republicans and the pro-Zionist lobby, Kerry retracted his statement.
“Risked becoming…”? Israel is an apartheid state from the river to the sea. It was founded as such from the very start when it drove out of its territory most of the Palestinian Arabs, who became refugees. This was in 1948, the same year South African Apartheid was established. The fact that only now the US is admitting that Israel "can become an apartheid state" is reminiscent of the US’s opposition, until 1986, of any economic sanctions against South Africa, because it viewed the Apartheid regime as an important ally for decreasing Soviet influence in southern Africa. The US still views Israel as an important ally in its opposition to any progressive, let alone revolutionary changes in the region. However, how much the US can actually rely on Israel against imperialist Russia is not at all clear, as Israel has refused to back the US in the Ukraine.
Following the collapse of the negotiations, on April 24, Fatah and Hamas announced that they have resolved their differences in policy vis. negotiations with Israel, and will subsequently form a Palestinian unity government. "An interim government could be finalized in the next five weeks, with elections possible by early 2015, Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Eitta said." (2)
"Senior level Fatah official Jibril Rajoub declared that the emerging Palestinian unity government recognizes Israel in accordance with the policies of Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen. Reconciliation with Hamas is based on the two-state solution with the 1967 borders. Hamas will also accept all of the stipulations from the international community,” Rajoub stated on IDF (Israeli army) Radio. (3)
However a Fatah Central Committee member, Tawfiq Tirawi, posted a video on YouTube which included his comments from Gaza. A few days before the unity deal, Tirawi said "Gaza will return to the bosom of legitimacy.” Tirawi added “the homeland…is…all of Palestine, from its River to its Sea,” (4)
The Hamas-Fatah deal came on the same day as an Israeli air strike hit the northern Gaza strip, wounding twelve people including children and teenagers, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza. "Al Qidra said it was a drone strike. The Israeli military said it conducted an air strike in a counter-terror operation, but provided no other details.” (5)
Relieved, the Israeli government enthusiastically denounced the Fatah-Hamas agreement. "Does he [Abbas] want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in remarks to reporters. "You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace. So far he hasn't done so." (6)
As Israelimmediately suspended its talks with the Palestinian Authority, it was once again made perfectly clear that the Zionist regime will not even allow the Palestinians to establish a mini-state in the territories occupied 1967, to say nothing of the return of the refugees that fled or were expelled in 1948.
Reaction of the Great Imperialist Powers
The attitude of the great imperialist powers to the accord was mixed. Russia expressed its support for the recently concluded unity accord between Hamas and Fatah in the wake of a meeting between its Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Meshaal. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said:
“In the course of the meeting the main focus was directed at recent inter-Palestinian agreements on national unity issues… Restoration of the unity among Palestinians based on the political platform of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab Peace Initiative meets the interest of a fair and effective Israel-Palestine settlement, the final cause of which is to fulfill national aspirations of Palestinian people by creating an independent, viable, sovereign state with territorial integrity living in safety and peace with Israel…” (7)
For her part, the US expressed disappointment at the Fatah-Hamas deal: "US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki had called the Palestinian unity deal "troubling" and said the US was ‘disappointed’ by it. She had also said that Washington would ask the Palestinians to provide clarifications"…. (8)
Israel, in turn, was critical of what she perceived as an overly mild US reaction to the Palestinian accord: “Israel has criticised America's ‘weak’ reaction to the unity deal reached between rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas and demanded a clearer and more resolute response, a media report here said. Jerusalem has made it clear to the Americans that it is disappointed with their response and has asked that they take a sharper, clearer tack, as they did when Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to disband the PA," a senior Israeli official involved in the dialogue with Washington told Israeli daily Ha'aretz.” (9)
The meeting in Russia and the respective announcements by Russia and the US make it clear that the growing inter-imperialist rivalry between the two great powers is now being manifested in the question of Palestine, in addition to the crises in Syria and the Ukraine. Furthermore, the remarks and reactions of the US State Department and Israel are yet another expression of the growing distance between these latter two countries.
Capitulation of Hamas
The question on the mind of many is who capitulated to whom: Hamas to Fatah or Fatah to Hamas?
We believe that Daoud Kuttab of uruknet.infois correct in his assessment that it was Hamas which capitulated to Fatah:
“Abbas’ strategy finally paid off, in an agreement that at least on paper suggests a total Hamas capitulation and a clear political victory for Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Islamic movement suddenly began speaking of Abbas as president and even applauded one of his speeches that reiterated his commitment to the peace talks. Hamas has agreed to yield its government to a unity cabinet made up of technocrats, none of whom will be known Hamas members.
“Throughout the talks with Israel, there had been arguments concerning whether Hamas would be obliged to separately accept the three conditions set out by the now nearly defunct Quartet: recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and accepting all previous agreements signed by the PLO. The position presented by the PLO was that all of these conditions have already been met by the PLO, and therefore Hamas, by joining the organization — as long as the PLO does not retract its earlier positions — would be in adherence with the three conditions." (10)
Counter-Revolution in Egypt
If so, then the question then becomes why is Hamas capitulating now? One certain reason is the counter-revolution in Egypt that removed Morsi and the Moslem Brotherhood from power. The military coup and its aftermath have weakened Hamas. On this Yari and ZiIlber from the US-imperialist Washington Institute have written:
"Despite the serious challenges arrayed against any sincere Hamas-Fatah rapprochement, the appearance of national reconciliation is likely useful for both sides. Hamas has in recent years been badly damaged by regional developments, specifically the reduction in support and aid from Iran, Syria, and the Gulf states. After last summer's ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, Cairo's policy vis-a-vis Hamas also changed dramatically, punctuated by the closure of the tunnel networks and border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. For Hamas, the loss of tax revenues from its tunnel operations in particular has spawned an acute financial crisis. By one estimate, Hamas can finance only a quarter of its budget for this year. Rising economic hardship inside Gaza has led to growing resentment against the Hamas government and, in turn, an increased willingness by the Hamas leadership to view national reconciliation with Fatah as a pathway out of its political and economic isolation. Not surprisingly, Cairo has already indicated that it will reopen the Rafah border terminal connecting Gaza to Egypt once a unity cabinet is formed." (11)
While Morsi’s government blocked the road to a revolution, it is Sisi 's military coup and what followed which has entirely gutted it by reintroducing a Mubarak-type regime in Egypt. In this light, Hamas’ capitulation to Fatah is part and parcel of the counter-revolutionary swing in the Middle East.
Fragile Fatah-Hamas Agreement
However, the agreement between Hamas and Fatah may not, in the final analysis, come into being:
“On Saturday, Moussa Abu Marzouk a deputy leader of Hamas said that Hamas rejectedthe Quartet’s conditions: ‘Hamas rejects the Quartet’s conditions because it denies some of our people’s rights. … We will always refuse any conditions that deny our Palestinian rights.’ Despite Fatah’s claims that Hamas had committed to the Quartet’s requirements, a leading Hamas figure,Mahmoud Al-Zahar, assertedthat Hamas’s reported change of heart was merely a ‘marketing’ ploy used by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ‘to minimize the pressure.’” (12)
If so, this will not be the first time that negotiations between Hamas and Fatah have failed.
“In 2011, both sides agreedto an Egypt-brokered peace deal. But the rival sides couldn't agree on who to name the interim prime minister of the unity government, and the plan fizzled out. Then, in 2012, both sides again signeda reconciliation deal, but failed to follow through on plans to cease hostilities. Later that year, Abbas submitted a bid to upgrade Palestine from an observer to a member state at the United Nations. Hamas sentmixedmessages of support for the bid, and Abbas told the international communitythat if they do not heed his request, Hamas would gain strength — not the best way to make friends with a rival faction. After that, attempts at warming ties were abandoned, until now.” (13)
However, this time it may be different seeing how the power of the US in the region is declining while Russia's influence is increasing. Furthermore, the failure of the last attempt by the US to establish a mini-Palestinian state in the West Bank has collapsed due to Israel’s rejection of the demand to stop further settlement activity and to release Palestinians prisoners, citizens of Israel, as promised in an earlier agreement. These US failures are clear, even for Abbas.
Nevertheless, a Fatah-Hamas coalition government alternatively oriented towards Russia and Europe rather than the US will not liberate the Palestinians, as Israel will not, in the forseeable future, allow a mini, semi-independent Palestinian state to be established. As long as Israel exists, Apartheid will be the de facto nature of the regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Working Class-Led Struggle Against Imperialism – The Road to Liberation
For years we of the International Socialist League (ISL) have said that neither Fatah nor Hamas can lead to the liberation of the Palestinians from the oppression of Israel. While both factions seek a solution based on capitalism in the framework of the imperialist order, the only way out is an anti-imperialist struggle of the working class at the head of the masses; a struggle that can lead to a socialist revolution, that both the bourgeois Fatah and Hamas organizations have no interest in and are too frightened to unleash. We are living in the epoch of the decline of the capitalist system. At this stage of history, the weak bourgeois and petit bourgeois forces of oppressed peoples are incapable of leading a bourgeois democratic revolution. Therefore, they can only rely on one or another of the imperialist states, rather than on a mass struggle.
On the surface, Hamas is more militant as it supports armed struggle as opposed to the Palestinian Authority which openly collaborates with Israel to ensure the latter’s security. However, acts of individual terrorism and the firing of ineffective rockets is no replacement for a mass struggle culminating in armed uprising.
This struggle can only be won by the working class, mostly Palestinians but with the support of a progressive section of the Israeli working class which breaks with Zionism, led by a revolutionary leadership. For anyone who supports the Palestinian cause and who has eyes to see, the capitulation of Hamas to Fatah it is yet further verification of the fact that the only solution is a mass struggle which begins with democratic demands, but which ultimately leads to a working class revolution.
Free all Palestinians prisoners!
For the right of return of all Palestinians refugees to their country!
Down with Apartheid from the river to the sea!
For a Free, Red Palestine!
(1) Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg: Apartheid is the right word for Israel, Arab News, 12 May 2014, http://www.arabnews.com/news/569366
(2) Kareem Khadder and Jason Hanna: Hamas, Fatah announce talks to form Palestinian unity government, 24 April 2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/23/world/meast/gaza-west-bank-palestinian-reconciliation/
(3) Rivka Salomon: Rajoub: “A Unity Government Will Recognize Israel”, Jerusalem Post on line, 24 April 2014, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/middle-east/israeli-palestinian-relations/rajoub-a-unity-government-will-recognize-israel-4949
(4) Fatah leader calls for future without Israel: Haifa, Jaffa, and Acre will all be part of Palestine, www.youtube.com/watch?v=E27xejoptj8
(5) Kareem Khadder and Jason Hanna: Hamas, Fatah announce talks to form Palestinian unity government
(6) Al Jazeera: Hamas-Fatah unity agreement challenges U.S. Mideast efforts, 23 April 2014: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/23/hamas-plo-unity.html
(7) The Tower: Russia Backs Fatah-Hamas Unity Agreement, 6 May 2014 http://www.thetower.org/0267-russia-backs-fatah-hamas-unity-but-insists-on-quartet-conditions/
(8) Barak Ravid: Israel slams 'weak' U.S. response to Fatah-Hamas unity deal, 24 April 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/misc/iphone-article/.premium-1.587291
(9) Z News: Israel flays US on 'weak' reaction to Fatah, Hamas unity deal, 25 April 2014, http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/israel-flays-us-on-weak-reaction-to-fatah-hamas-unity-deal_927087.html
(10) Daoud Kuttab: Palestinian reconciliation deal a Hamas surrender, 28 April 2014 http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/04/fatah-plo-hamas-reconciliation-israel.html
(11) Ehud Yaari and Neri Zilber: The Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Agreement: Too Early to Judge, The Washington Institute, April 24 2014, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-hamas-fatah-reconciliation-agreement-too-early-to-judge
(12) The Tower: Russia Backs Fatah-Hamas Unity Agreement
(13) Danielle Wiener-Bronner: A Brief History of the Fraught Relationship Between Fatah and Hamas, 24 April 2014. http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/04/a-brief-history-of-the-fraught-relationship-between-fatah-and-hamas/361178/