When Hamas and Fatah struck a deal last month that resulted in an agreement for elections and a government run by “technocrats,” Israeli officials went apoplectic–at least in rhetoric. But the government has not cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, and is not urging the U.S. government or the European Union to cut funds. Israel won’t be doing so anytime soon, despite calls from right-wing Israelis and Americans to do so.
The core reason why aid continues to flow to the PA can be seen in the wake of the reported abduction of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank who went missing after leaving a yeshiva. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has linked the abductions to the unity government.
“You remember that Israel warned the international community about the dangers of endorsing the Fatah-Hamas unity pact,” Netanyahu said in a statement on the abductions. “I believe that the dangers of that pact now should be abundantly clear to all.”
But if Netanyahu really believed Mahmoud Abbas was responsible for the reported abductions, Israel’s government would have stopped transferring cash to the PA’s coffers. They have not.
In fact, PA security forces are working closely together with the Israeli troops that have ransacked homes and arrested hundreds of people alleged to be members of Hamas, as well as others with no affiliation to the movement. The close coordination has always been the rub in the unity pact. How do you reconcile factions when one faction is working with an occupation force bent on destroying the other faction?
The PA-Israeli security coordination that is targeting Hamas is weakening the unity pact–which may be Israel’s real goal in carrying out such a wild military operation that has reached into major cities far away from the Hebron-area where the teens are said to have been taken from.
Late last week, an Israeli military official told the New York Times’ Isabel Kershner that “ongoing security coordination” with the PA was continuing. Today, Abbas defended the security coordination in front of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as “in our interest and for our protection.”
The trouble with Abbas’ statements is that it has become increasingly clear that Israel is exploiting the opportunity to strike a major blow at Hamas, which has denied carrying out the kidnappings. Former Israeli intelligence officials have explicitly contradicted Netanyahu’s claims that Hamas is the party responsible.
“There have been no facts presented to the public that they have been abducted by Hamas, so we need the correct information,” former Mossad official Rami Igra told the Jerusalem Post. Igra added that Netanyahu’s claims are “more political than based on fact.” The doubts about Hamas’ involvement–or at least doubts that an order to kidnap came from high-level Hamas officials, and not from a rogue faction–haven’t stopped PA officials from floating the possibility that they will cut off the unity pact.
So the Palestinian Authority is cooperating with an Israeli operation bent on destroying Hamas’ political and economic infrastructure. This is no surprise. It is in the PA’s narrow self-interest to do so. Israel and the West would squeeze the PA if security coordination was halted, since close cooperation is the key reason why the West Bank has been so quiet in recent years even as Israel has escalated its killings and settlement building.
The consequence of the security coordination is that Hamas and the PA are devolving into open recriminations. “Abbas’ statements about the security coordination are unjustifiable and they harm the Palestinian reconciliation and they are against the Palestinian consensus,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the New York Times today, in response to Abbas’ statements praising security cooperation with Israel.
Increasingly, the “harming” of Palestinian reconciliation seems to be the point of the Israeli raids.
“Their overall goal is to keep us divided and weak,” Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouthi, who helped bring about Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, told VICE News’ Dylan Collins. Arresting hundreds of known Hamas members, with the help of the PA, is a good way to do that.