Gaza: Fatah repudiates the Constitutional process
Jean-François Legrain has very kindly made available his interview, published in Paris newspaper, La Liberation on 13 June. In the meantime, Fatah unilaterally dissolved the elected government and imposed an emergency government.
No cobbled-together solution in sight
[Of course not:
A researcher au CNRS/Gremmo (Research and Study Group on the Mediterranean and the Middle East) and an expert on Palestine, Jean François Legrain analyzes the conflict pitting Hamas against Fatah:
How do you explain the war between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip?
The war represents the hypertrophy of all issues that have been festering over the years, and which Yassir Arafat, despite his weakness, was able to control. Anything that enabled the Palestinians to preserve their society in the face of the Israeli occupation and the rais to consolidate his power was lost in the upheaval of Palestinian society after Arafat’s death. Arafat knew how the gears of his society functioned. He knew how to work those gears, forcing his men to competition with one another, promoting the fortunes of one over the other, and vice-versa.
Why didn’t Mahmood Abbas continue those policies?
Because Abbas does not possess these skills and, furthermore, because of his refusal to go about things in this way, perhaps for the sake of democracy. However, owing to the absence of a state, the accumulation of local grievances, the fallback on blood ties and the solidarity of local interests -factors that are present, by the way, in other Arab countries- the Palestinians have sunk into chaos.
The first outbreak of clashes was witnessed at beginning of summer 2004, shortly before the death of Arafat. At that time, however, the conflict was not between Hamas and Fatah but within the Fatah movement itself. It was at that time that a profusion of armed groups and subgroups emerged –a materialization of local grievances, the extremely personal character of leadership and mafia-like outgrowths. These struggles also reflected the quest for control on the part of small-time chiefs over a highly localized geographic area, combined with resistance to the Israeli occupation. These struggles reflected the heritage of the Feyadeen culture of the 1970's and the new forms of violence linked to the Intifada emerging amidst this very personalized and competitive contest for power. From the turmoil involving Palestinian Authority security groups (official) and groups (informal) linked to Fatah, we then saw the violence spread throughout the area.
But the arrival to power of Hamas changed the equation. All the groups that had been loyal to very disparate and even contradictory ideologies found a common enemy in Hamas. The crux of the problem is that Fatah, in addition to the Presidency, has continually denied Hamas the right to exercise the mandate handed to it at the voting booth.
Nonetheless, Mahmood Abbas appointed Ismael Haniyeh as Prime Minister.
At first, Abbas went along with the outcome of the vote. However, he did everything possible to deprive the new cabinet of its Constitutional prerogatives. It should be recalled that when Abbas served as Arafat’s Prime Minister, he fought to accumulate power for himself and his cabinet. Moreover, he successfully shifted all powers nominally enjoyed by the office of Palestinian Authority President and the PLO to the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Later, with respect to the security apparatus, Abbas shifted the security forces under the authority of the Prime Minister back to the President.
What we are witnessing is civil disobedience –to say the least– on the part of forces under the umbrella of Fatah who are repudiating the Constitutional process. Furthermore, Mahmood Abbas and Fatah benefit from the support of Israel and the international community. Military support from Israel has permitted the shipment of arms to the Gaza Strip from Jordan, Egypt and Fatah militants. The international community continues to deny financial assistance to Hamas as the United States provides financial aid the Presidential Guard, which it concurrently trains in Jericho and in Egypt.
Can we say at this point that civil war is underway in the Gaza Strip?
Its de facto existence is undeniable. But it is difficult to qualify it as one because it is very different from the civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq. This is not a confessional or ethnic conflict. In Gaza, the divisions run through families themselves.
Do you see any type of cobbled-together solution?
I don’t foresee a solution –at least, not without the involvement of the international community and, moreover, not without a determined effort. But no formula, even temporary, is on the horizon because the United States and Europe refuse to make any commitment.
Interview conducted JEAN-PIERRE PERRIN
Related interviews with Mr. Legrain from on-line newspapers translated into English at this site:
Fatah vs. Hamas
Beyond Gaza, beyond Beirut
The Hamas Election Victory