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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Stabilizing Israel-Hamas Relations in Gaza: Can It Be Achieved?

Filed under: Egypt, Hamas, Israel

Stabilizing Israel-Hamas Relations in Gaza: Can It Be Achieved?
Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza (Arab press)
Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza
Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza (Ma’an)

Israel and Hamas are seriously engaged in “regularizing” the situation in Gaza that will end the arson kites and the assaults on the border fence, and, in return, Israel will permit the rehabilitation of Gaza to alleviate the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Under discussion is a long-term ceasefire and the reconstruction of Gaza.   

Both Israel and Hamas are interested in the positive conclusion of the efforts. That is why this time the chances of an agreement are fair. However, there are too many spoilers ready and willing to prevent its fulfillment.

Who Are the Spoilers and What Motivates Them?

First among the deal opponents is the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Sources in Ramallah insist that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas strongly objects to any engagement with Hamas. He wants Hamas to accept Ramallah’s rule in Gaza under Ramallah’s terms. There will be no return to “reconciliation talks” after today.

Also, when it comes to the governing structures that were central to the talks in the past – elections for president and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – Abbas is not interested in their revival. He is now basing his legitimacy on the established institutes of the Palestine Liberation Organization that are not democratic.

The reluctance to return to futile reconciliation talks goes together with Abbas’ concern over the separate contacts between Israel and Hamas. According to sources in Ramallah, the chances of an agreement between Israel and Hamas are much better than the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.  If negotiations with Gaza leads to Gaza’s detachment from the West Bank, some Palestinians believe it will be the first step of the Trump deal and remove the refugee issue and Jerusalem off the negotiating table.

As far as Ramallah is concerned, there will be no blessing for the deal. It will also present a regional and international dilemma whether to grant the terror organization, Hamas, legitimacy.

Opposition within Hamas and the Muslim World

Other spoilers are inside Hamas, and they reflect the regional splits over Syria.

The major player inside Hamas pushing for the deal is Yahya Sinwar who is coordinating the issue with Egypt.

There are other wings in Hamas that are coordinated with Turkey, Qatar, or Iran that are rivals to Egypt and will seek to spoil an Egyptian-brokered deal.  Those three countries will oppose any Egyptian attempt to deepen its influence in Gaza.

Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza
Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza (Arab press)

In summary, both Israel and Hamas are interested in a deal, and that’s why it is possible to achieve a normalization of the situation in Gaza.

However, the “spoilers” who reflect the opposing sides in the Syrian imbroglio, will not let Egypt solidify its position in Gaza easily.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is convinced that Israel and Hamas are moving toward a separate agreement, and it is determined to topple it.