Algeria deal is stillborn, but Palestinians can change status quo

A handout picture provided by the Algerian Presidency's official Facebook Page on October 12, 2022 shows the Palestinian Hamas movement's leader Ismail Haniyeh (L), Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (C) and Fatah member Azzam al-Ahmad (R) posing for a picture along other officials during a meeting of Palestinian factions in Algiers. (AFP)

Osama Al Sharif

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

No one, including those who signed the accord paper in Algiers on Thursday, believes that this time Palestinian factions will stick to a reconciliation deal that aims at ending 15 years of bitter division. اضافة اعلان

The latest deal, one of many that were reached even before Hamas militants took over the besieged Gaza Strip in a bloody putsch against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007, is unlikely to change the current status quo in spite of almost unanimous urging by the Palestinian people to end the rift.

Unlike previous deals, which began in Mecca in 2007 and were adopted again in various forms in Doha, Istanbul, Dakkar, Cairo, and Gaza City, this time the main factions, Fattah and Hamas, failed to agree on one key point: the forming of a national unity government.

The document did include clauses on developing the structures of the PLO, forming its national council, and holding legislative and presidential elections. The last item has been agreed upon more than anyone can remember. The last time President Mahmoud Abbas called for such elections was in January 2021, only to “postpone” the polls four months later. The excuse was that Israel did not offer guarantees that East Jerusalem Palestinians will be allowed to vote.

Palestinians have an ominous sense of déjà vu regarding the Algeria accord. Even as the UN, EU, and many countries praised the agreement, in reality, neither party feels pressed to go into a partnership that could spell disaster for either or even both.

The fact that Hamas feels relatively safe holding the reins in Gaza and is now eyeing extending its influence into the occupied West Bank is enough reason for Fattah, the largest PLO faction, to derail any agreement.

Likewise, the PA under ailing Abbas is in no mood to alter the status quo. It believes it remains the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and continues to enjoy the support and recognition of the international community, including Israel and the US.

The fact that Israel has managed to establish some sort of a framework with Hamas in Gaza is important. Even though the two sides continue to demonize each other in public, the reality is that Hamas and Israel have reached an informal understanding. This became apparent in the recent confrontation between Islamic Jihad and Israel, where Hamas sat on the proverbial fence.

Israel is now issuing thousands of work permits to Gazans as daily workers, permits that benefit Hamas’ empty coffers. A delicate truce has been established between Israel and Hamas, with the former keeping the blockaded strip alive for now.
Only the Palestinian people inside the Green Line and in the occupied territories can upset the deadly status quo and change the current trajectory.
Another important point has to do with the fact that Hamas’ military wing has more leverage on how things progress on the political front than the movement’s titular leadership. And the military wing is not bound by what Ismail Haniyeh agrees to in Algiers.

On the other side, Fattah is fractured and the PA is hated by most Palestinians. Its survival, ironically, is tethered to Israel’s military and political bodies’ good intentions. In recent months, the PA’s popularity, and that of Abbas, has dipped as lone wolf-style Palestinian attacks against Israelis surged all of a sudden. Israel’s response, as it prepared for a fifth Knesset election, which could prove consequential to the future of the state, has been to crack down with bloody force.

Since the beginning of the year, thousands of Palestinian youths have been arrested while Israel’s army engaged in a killing spree of militant Palestinians in Jenin, Nablus, and elsewhere.

Since the assassination of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the rate of Palestinian attacks against the occupiers has been on the rise. So much so that the Israeli government is holding security meetings to address the new phenomenon known as the “Lion’s Den” resistance movement that is sweeping the West Bank. The movement is not tied to any of the known Palestinian factions, and is well armed. It is now posing the biggest security challenge for the Israeli government a few weeks before the November 1 election.

Interestingly, this is one security challenge for Israel where the PA, notorious for its coordination with the occupiers, can offer little help.

The Algeria deal will soon be forgotten as the rift between the PA and Hamas deepens. The upcoming Arab summit will praise it and Abbas, who did not attend the two-day talks in the Algerian capital, may even make additional false promises. For a growing number of Palestinians, the 87-year-old self proclaimed patriarch has become more of a pied piper, making promises he cannot keep. He is still making the same old threats to sever ties with Israel and withhold recognition.

Only the Palestinian people inside the Green Line and in the occupied territories can upset the deadly status quo and change the current trajectory. The fact is that the current status quo is unsustainable and change could come when all parties, including Israel, least expect it.

Osama Al Sharif  is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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