Recent Israeli and U.S. policies have considerably strengthened Hamas, although it’s labeled a terrorist organization by both countries. This has been achieved by making concessions in response to Hamas’ violent resistance to Israeli occupation, while simultaneously punishing rival Fatah for pursuing a solution through peaceful political means.
Since 2007, Palestinian authority has been split into Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-controlled West Bank. The split occurred after the surprise victory by Hamas in Gaza elections supervised and certified as free and fair by international observers, including former President Jimmy Carter.
The election results caught U.S. and Israel by surprise. They strongly favored Fatah. In response, while heaping additional financial rewards on Fatah controlled West Bank, they applied punitive economic sanctions on the people of Gaza, including one of the harshest blockades on civilians anywhere since World War II. My November essay “The human-rights-tragedy in Gaza” gives a taste of what life is like under the Israeli blockade.
The split between Fatah and Hamas is of great strategic value to Israel. For decades it has been under international pressure to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians. But thanks to the split, Israel has been able to justify avoiding meaningful negotiations, arguing that it has nobody to negotiate with, as long as the Fatah-Hamas power schism continues.
Cynically, key Israeli and U.S. policies are designed to continue the split indefinitely. For example, via The Palestinian Accountability Act Congress links Fatah’s financial support to guarantees it will not reconcile with Hamas. Financial handouts are critical to West Bank Palestinians, given that the Israeli occupation makes it impossible for the people to develop a self-sustaining economy. Read more »