Palestinian frustration with their leaders has been growing in the wake of the failure to achieve reconciliation. Palestinians, particularly Gazans, see changes being made to Arab regimes all around them, but their own situation has remained stagnant. Their hope for change is rapidly fading due to the rifts between political rivals Hamas and Fatah, and the growing internal tensions within Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
When Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and Khaled Meshaal, political wing chief of Hamas, signed the reconciliation pact in May 2011 in Cairo, many were hopeful that this would be the first sign of change and the beginning of a true partnership between the two main Palestinian factions. However, thus far there have been no results on the ground and the frustration of the Palestinian people is increasing. The recent speculations of postponing the May elections have only added to this infuriation.
Reconciliation is a "lie"
The growing sense of exasperation was expressed in a recent article by Palestinian journalist Tahsin Yahya Abu Assi titled, "The Lie of the Reconciliation at this Stage", published January 27. Abu Assi's primary complaint is the lack of improvement in the life of the average Gazan He places blame squarely on the shoulders of Hamas, the group in leadership since 2007. In fact, he elaborates that the level of frustration in Gaza is so high, that many residents even wish for the "return of the Israeli occupation".
According to him, the vehemence behind the split is still so pervasive amongst Palestinian leadership that talks of reconciliation are just for show, and in fact nothing is changing to promote aspirations of the Palestinian people. He says, "The logic of reconciliation is behind the frustration of our people and the continuation of its suffering, the continuity of the siege, and the termination of electricity. These factors lead to the death of a lot of our people and an increase of poverty, unemployment, and depression amongst our youth".
Because of this angst and unhappiness, there has been an increase in cases of divorce and Palestinian families are collapsing, he added. Abu Assi closes the article by adding that all of the problems of the Palestinian people are due to their leaders, and that at this stage, Hamas and Fatah reconciliation is a "lie", a show that both sides are just putting on to earn themselves time.
Hamas fails to deliver
The frustration of the Palestinian people in Gaza is rising as criticism towards a leadership that failed to deliver grows. They look around at the rest of the Arab world and see what a difference was made in other countries during the "Arab Spring". In fact, Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which has been far exceeding expectations in Egypt's recent elections (as well as Tunisia). In Egypt, the MB's provision of social services is much wider than those of Hamas, and as a result their popularity with their constituents is much higher. In addition, the feeling now is that the MB in Egypt are busy with their efforts to revive order and economic growth while Hamas is too busy with its internal rifts.
While it is true that Gaza is in a very complicated situation, it is not difficult to say that the Hamas government failed to meet expectations. More than this, recently corruption has taken the forefront as the primary complaint of Arab dictators, and Hamas and Fatah are not immune to these allegations. For example, Ismail Haniyeh, the Prime Minister of the Hamas government in the Strip, lately came under fire for his use of a $50,000 plane on a recent trip to Sudan. Last year, Ayman Taha, a senior official, was suspended due to suspicions of embezzlement.
But the problems of Hamas are also seeping into the political divide; it is believed that Haniyeh sought candidacy in Hamas' next elections for its political bureau as the current leader, Khaled Meshaal, indicated that he would not run for re-election. However, Meshaal changed his mind and over the weekend it was reported that he was still interested in the position. Nevertheless, it seems that the tensions between Meshaal, the exiled leader and Haniyah, one of the most prominent leaders in Gaza, are not repairable.
The growing division within Hamas is also connected to regional problems. The close relationship with Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria has put them under fire, as has its refusal to publicly condemn the current deadly oppression there, which includes Palestinian refugees. Meshaal left Damascus, the longtime headquarters of Hamas, only last week due to political tensions. Ironically, Haniyeh is planning an official visit to Iran in the upcoming days, a country that outwardly supports the brutal Syrian regime. These regional developments have made Hamas' situation worse and put the group in a weaker position.
Following the collapse of recent talks in Amman between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, reservations have been growing regarding the sincerity of Hamas' efforts to reconcile with Fatah. In particular, recent statements by Haniyeh during his recent tour abroad have further cast doubts on the Islamist party's intentions on this regard. "We are among those who will create a new Middle East. We have created a glorious revolution that will bring back the nation and its glory in place of the chaos that the American administration had so desired," Haniyeh stated while in Tunis. Additionally, Haniyeh is on his way to visit Tehran, which has openly opposed the reconciliation.
Thus, Haniyeh's recent statements and acts were considered by the Palestinian people as another setback for the reconciliation. For them, this message is another source of anger, despair and lack of hope.
Another cause for the split within Hamas is the notion of resistance (muqawama). In light of the Arab Spring, Khaled Meshaal spoke of utilizing "popular resistance". This is in contrast to the use of suicide bombers during the recent uprising against Israel. However, others in Hamas leadership insist on continuing with an armed struggle. Those calls have also resulted in initial contacts with Islamic Jihad, a small organization backed by Syria and Iran, to increase coordination between the two groups.
To conclude, if these frustrations will lead to another people, i.e. Gazans, revolting against their own leaders has yet to be seen. In any case, frustration with the deficient governance is rising and at the point that Israeli occupation is preferable to the current leadership in Gaza Strip, the political system has gone awry.