DECEMBER 28, 2017 – In October, with great fanfare, Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders announced plans to create a unity government.
Things were expected to change under the new form of government, which would see Hamas relinquish control of Gaza’s borders and the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza after the 2007 Hamas coup. The agreement also called for the creation of a joint police force where PA and Hamas members would work side by side. The PA also promised to end its electrical sanctions against Hamas in Gaza.
Dec. 1 has come and gone and the unity agreement has become another piece of paper that the Palestinians once heralded and have now discarded. Historians of the conflict should note that this is the seventh failed unity agreement between the PA and Hamas since 2007. Those agreements took place in Mecca in 2007, Sana’a in 2008, Cairo in 2011, Doha in 2012, Cairo (again) in 2012, Shati in 2014, and Cairo (again) this fall.
Palestinians have much to gain from a unity government. Currently, they live under two Palestinian governments. Unemployment is high in Gaza, its economy is in shambles, and humanitarian funds earmarked for residents have gone to purchase weapons and have also been used to build tunnels by Hamas. While quality of life is better in the West Bank, unemployment is also high and support of Hamas is also still strong.
With dictators in place in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinian politicians and clergy continue to urge residents to carry out jihad, or holy war. This is a storyline that will likely continue until the Palestinians hold their leaders to a different standard. Instead of continued warfare and terrorism, a peace movement needs to emerge that will put their children ahead of political gain. Given the expectations that have been trumpeted by Palestinian leaders that call for the destruction of Israel, and the “Right of Return” of millions of Palestinians (and their descendants) to current-day Israel, a just peace could take decades – or even a century – as many observers believe.