By Dr. Fayez Abu Shamaleh
Many of Gaza’s inhabitants have taken interest in the meeting that took place in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and a committee of multiple Palestinian factions. The goal of the meeting was to propose ways in which the Rafah crisis could be resolved. It is important to know that all suggestions on solving the crisis were presented after they were approved by the president of the Palestinian Authority: Mahmoud Abbas.
What did Hamas say about the meetings via their spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri?
First of all, the meeting that took place was both serious and honest and the conversation is set to continue in future meetings. In actuality, what happened between the first point and the last point was that Hamas presented its viewpoint on the committee’s suggestions on how best to open the Rafah crossing, which can be summarised by the following points:
- We welcome the government to come forth to Gaza so that it may take responsibility for all of its duties towards the people, which includes the Rafah crossing among other issues. In fact Hamas’s point of view is the following: take all of the Gaza Strip all at once. Do not take it gradually – take the Rafah crossing and take everything else with it.
- Hamas has no problem with granting the unity government or the national committee of Palestinian factions the opportunity of controlling or overseeing Rafah. But what do the other Palestinian factions think of Hamas’s stance?
While the Palestinian factions all agreed that they liked and agreed with the first point, they rejected Hamas’s proposal out of the sheer impossibility of it. More importantly, more than a year and a half have passed since the formation of the Palestinian unity government and the Palestinian Authority has been hesitant to begin working in Gaza. Hence, the position of the factions that say:
Why does the government not acknowledge that it needs to separate its work from the issue of the Rafah crossing since the government has failed to assume full responsibility for Gaza? Why do we not work on lifting the siege on society as well as lifting the limitations that are placed on families since the government faces many obstacles regarding what it can do in Gaza? Why do we not begin to tackle all the outstanding issues in Gaza according to their level of importance, that is, why do we not work towards opening the Rafah crossing and then begin to address other issues? The issue of Rafah and whether or not it is open is in fact the issue that affects people in their everyday lives. And yet, the two points proposed by Hamas are contradictory in nature as one seeks to open the Rafah crossing for the people’s benefit while the other harms the people’s interests.
Why do the Palestinian factions refuse to be a part of the solution? And why does the unity government refuse to take responsibility for managing the Rafah crossing if it refuses to allow national division to continue on its clock? Why did the national committee, which embarked on this mission out of humanity and nationalism, refuse to take Hamas seriously? Why does it not seriously discuss Hamas’s proposals and work towards opening the Rafah crossing? Do the government’s national responsibilities not remain despite political differences? Why does the committee not take Hamas’s suggestion seriously and work towards ending national division?
The speed at which the Palestinian factions rejected Hamas’s proposal leads us to question intentions and it takes the issue of the crossing back to square one. It forces us to question and doubt the factions’ intentions, especially since the PA claims that solving the Rafah crisis is an issue of national sovereignty. Yet, curiously, despite having said this, the PA refuses to accept responsibility for the crossing, which goes to show that committee coordinates with the PA on one hand and Hamas on the other.
It is up to Hamas to initiate meetings with other factions while also admitting point blank that it believes that the matter of opening the crossing to be the responsibility of all factions, Hamas included. They must all work together to open the crossing amid the darkness of the siege.