By Dan Katz
Palestinian Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh says a deal to form a Palestinian national government is close. That government will be led by Hamas, which has a parliamentary majority, with the nationalist Fatah organisation as a junior partner.
Haniyeh says the government will be based on the “Prisoners’ Document” which calls for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, and which would restrict action against the Israeli occupation to those areas. The cocument was drawn up by leaders of Hamas and Fatah who are currently in Israeli jails. The document presents a political problem to Hamas, whose charter demands the destruction of Israel.
Since the Hamas government was formed the US and Europe have halted their monthly $30 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, insisting Hamas had to first recognise the state of Israel, end violence and accept previous peace agreements. Israel also froze its $ 60m a month in customs duty transfers.
One consequence of these sanctions is that 160,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority have not been paid since March. Hamas need to make a political gesture, in order to have these sanctions lifted or eased. Meanwhile poverty is rife in Gaza, the UN says nearly 80% of the people there live in poverty.
The political deal may fetter Hamas to some degree; it may also act to poison the Palestinian nationalist movement, some of whose militants have already made ideological concessions to the Islamist Hamas.
Whatever agreement the Palestinian parties reach it is unlikely it will deliver new Israeli-Palestinian political progress.
On 4 September the building of 690 homes in two Israeli West Bank settlements was announced — despite an obligation to halt settlement expansion.
And an Israeli military court has ordered the trial of 15 Hamas leaders, including two cabinet ministers and the speaker of Palestine’s parliament. They are charged with membership of an outlawed organisation and face a maximum jail sentence of 10 years if convicted.
They are among more than 30 Hamas political leaders detained in recent weeks following the capture of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on the Israel-Gaza border, on 25 June. Israel launched a series of military operations in Gaza, killing more than 200 people, including more than 40 children.