As the crumbling state of affairs in Gaza and the West Bank continues to shock Arab media and analysts, a more covert and perhaps duplicitous scenario begins to emerge.
Since January 2006, Arab media pundits have joined their western counterparts in expressing surprise that the Islamist militant group Hamas could so sweep the elections and sidestep the once powerful Fatah.
But that is ridiculous. Fatah squandered monies and influence, jockeyed with political cronyism as Hamas went for the grassroots jugular – establishing and supporting charities, social welfare programs, schools and hospitals.
It wasn’t too difficult to anticipate that Hamas would win the hearts and minds of impoverished, downtrodden and occupied Palestinians while Fatah seemed to make no progress in talks with Israel. Not to forget that many Palestinians saw Fatah as corrupt.
But the die had been cast: Israel had seen to it that Fatah was weakened – Palestinian police were routinely targeted, disarmed. Arafat had been humiliated and removed from the scene. Fatah negotiators had made no gains; the plight of the Palestinians worsened.
And Israel went after senior Hamas officials, at the time swearing to cut off the combined heads of the snake, according to Ariel Sharon’s aides.
Beautifully played, really.
Israel allowed Hamas to grow, to fill the gap left by the battered Fatah security apparatus; it never really destroyed Hamas, leaving enough of its leadership cadre to battle on.
Then came the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative elections followed by the growing socio-political divisions threatening to split the Palestinian people into two camps.
Unions are splitting, government officials are sticking to their tried allegiances. Discontinuity marks the day.
Remember that word – discontinuity because it provides the crux of the motives behind Hamas’ recent power play.
On Thursday, Hamas began a militant coup and seized control of Gaza. Gun battles resulted in heavy losses on both sides.
Then the move Israel had been hoping and planning for happened.
Hamas declared Gaza its territory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by declaring the West Bank Fatah’s territory.
Suddenly, Gaza and the West Bank were spiritually, socially and politically torn apart. Gaza to the west, the West Bank to the east, each side claiming to be the true representative of the Palestinian people and their struggle.
Now carefully study a map of Israel and occupied Palestine. You will notice a large swathe of land separating Gaza from the West Bank. Palestinian negotiators had always argued that there could not be a Palestinian nation unless all Palestinian territories were contiguous.
This, of course, provided the Israeli political ideologists with a quandary. Publicly, they announced their support for a two-state solution. Behind closed doors; the Israeli government would never allow a unified Palestinian state because that would mean connecting Gaza to the West Bank by relinquishing occupied territory.
At least not one that included the West Bank. Notice that Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza. Much fanfare and anguish in the media about that one, but all a farce, really. The real goal is to keep the settlements in the West Bank. To keep the Tome of the Patriarchs located in the West Bank.
And now, by seizing Gaza, Hamas has fulfilled the mission it had been assigned when Israel first supported the Islamist movement as an alternative to Fatah in the late 1980s.
It has broken the Palestinian dream of a viable contiguous state in half.
To learn of the far-reaching impact of Hamas’ move one has to only read the reaction in the Washington Post, The New York Times or on the Sunday news talk shows.
US network ABC led the charge indicating that the two-state solution has now become a three-state solution.
CBS Evening News followed pace by showing a TV graphic – a map of Palestine with coats of arms of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. Two factions, two peoples, two governments . two states?
Hanan Ashrawi, always a Palestinian woman I greatly admired, told CBS that the growing division will spell the end of the “Palestinian national cause .
Hamas has ensured that there is no “national in its cause. We have Islamist versus Nationalist.
On a plane headed to Washington Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said there were now new opportunities in the region.
Here is the opportunity: Israel is likely to invade Gaza some time within the next three months and perhaps occupy it once and for all.
Olmert did announce that he would not allow a humanitarian crisis to grip Gaza. Very magnanimous.
Fatah will not be able to complain really, because Israel will have helped eradicate its now biggest enemy.
The Palestinians seem to have forgotten that their biggest enemy is the occupation.
Meanwhile US President George Bush’s Middle East policy has come under fire. When Bush came to power in 2001, he promised that the establishment of a Palestinian state within five years was a cornerstone of his policy.
He later revised his plans saying he expected a Palestinian state in 2009.
But now leading US columnists and politicians are saying that policy is in shambles – effectively, the pursuit of a Palestinian state is unrealistic.
Ironically, three months ago, when Palestinian factions met in Mecca, Saudi Arabia announced a diplomatic coup. Adversaries who come to Mecca are so moved by the spiritual significance of that city that they must agree and iron out their differences, the Saudi train of thought went.
Mecca seems to have been insignificant in the recent civil war.
Firas Al-Atraqchiis a Middle East columnist and former editor of The Daily Star Egypt.