The Palestinian arena is on fire

The last year's picture between Hamas, Iran, Jihad, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, the universities, and Fatah factions

עיתון בין אויבים

A newspaper among enemies

The new political reality in the Palestinian arena was initiated by Hamas and Iran a little over a year ago, with the organization's strategic decision to move the center of its activity to the West Bank. With Iran's advice and under its auspices, Hamas moved both its terrorist activity and its quest to seize power in the West Bank from Gaza; Considering the many evidence of the much money and support that Iran transfers to Hamas, and considering Iran's attempts to create a front against Israel on its fences, and in accordance with Iran's well-known basic rules: to create a front without the presence of its soldiers, and in light of the fact that Hamas is not known for such broad-view strategic decisions as this decision, and that such decisions have not characterized it so far, we already assessed here in our first report about a year ago, that Hamas's decision to move the center of its activity to the West Bank, is done with the support and patronage Iran. But since the honeymoon between them, tensions have arisen between Hamas and Iran, following the attempts of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian organization favored by Iran, to threaten the leadership of Hamas; Our assessment is that the trip of the Hamas delegation to Syria about a week ago was intended not only for a photo opportunity with the President of Syria, but also for a meeting with a delegation of senior Iranian officials, in order to repair relations, and to sharpen the continuation of the joint war in Israel. Hamas wants every fighting force in the West Bank to operate under its protection, and Iran and Jihad have an influence on this, because the money that is transferred to all the disorganized terrorists in the West Bank is Iranian money that is transferred to them from the Jihad coffers. In this way, Iran is trying to establish a Hezbollah-like organization in the West Bank with the help of Jihad. Hamas opposes an independent force.

The move of Hamas to the West Bank caused deep concern in Fatah, the organization that governs the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.  First, an attempt was made on behalf of Fatah to talk to Hamas, and this negotiation took place at the intermediate level of the two organizations, between the head of Hamas in the West Bank, Nasr Aladin al-Shaar, and Muhammad al-Madani, the head of Fatah's Tanzim, in al-Madani's office at Fatah's headquarters in Ramallah. These discussions exploded a short time later because Al Madani acted on behalf of Abu Mazen for the entry of Hamas into the PLO, like any of the organizations under the patronage of the Fatah organization, while Al Shaar acted on behalf of the Hamas leadership to uphold the results of the 2006 elections, in which Hamas won a majority. A Palestinian source told us immediately when the negotiations exploded that "Hamas does not want to be part of the PLO but to take over the PLO as sovereign."

The concern in the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement deepened when Hamas achieved significant victories in two central universities in the West Bank, Bir Zeit and Najah. Almost immediately after the incident in Najah, Tanzim activists came out against Abu Mazen and announced that they would resign from their positions. The head of the Tanzim in Ramallah even sent a letter of resignation practically to clarify the seriousness of the issue; Abu Mazen silenced the uproar by appointing Al Madani almost immediately after the incident as head of the Tanzim, and Al Madani calmed the activists. At the university in Nablus, there was even a violent clash between Hamas activists and Fatah activists, and when the head of Hamas in the West Bank, Al Shaar, tried to make peace between the factions, Fatah activists invited him to the house of one of the Fatah activists who was injured in a fight with Hamas, who lives in Kfar Kalil, in order to reconcile; When Al Shaar was on his way to the village to participate in the ceremony, Fatah men were waiting for him in an ambush in the entrances of the village, and assassinated him. Al Shaar was injured in his legs. It is not impossible that from the beginning Fatah intended to injure Al Shaar and not to kill him, so as not to start a war with Hamas. A Palestinian source in Fatah told us after the assassination in Al Shaar that it was a local initiative by Fatah activists, and not an organizational decision. Indeed, an all-out war between Hamas and Fatah did not develop from this incident, but not because of the kindness of Fatah, who did not kill Al Shaar, but because Hamas was now busy with the Islamic Jihad.

Towards the summer, the Hamas leadership concluded that the large amount of money flowing to Jihad from Iran leads to the strengthening of the organization in Gaza, and that Jihad intends to oust Hamas from power in Gaza, while Hamas is busy with its attempts to establish itself in the West Bank. Hamas's response was swift: on the one hand, freezing its relations with Iran and Hezbollah (Hamas has a representative in Lebanon, Al Aruri, number 2 in the organization), and on the other hand, it led to the extradition of the head of the West Bank Jihad to Israel. This extradition led to a three-day military conflict between Israel and the Islamic Jihad, in the end of which the Jihad was defeated. Hamas watched the conflict from the sidelines and did not intervene. Shortly after Israel ceased fire, the head of Islamic Jihad announced in a recorded speech to the organization's activists in Gaza that the Palestinian people see unity with Hamas as of utmost importance, and that Jihad accepts this decision of the Palestinian people. In other words, the head of jihad bowed to Hamas in accordance with Hamas's demand and preferred his relations with Hamas over his relations with Iran and Hezbollah. Hezbollah accepted this announcement with understanding, and did not oppose it in Al Manar, for example, which may make it clear that it was coordinated in advance with Iran and Hezbollah.

Following the conflagration in the Palestinian arena, the main events of which are described above, and were described during the year in real time in our newspaper, Abu Mazen concluded that the new reality requires him to announce his successor, as a prelude to the moment when he will transfer power over the PA to his successor. Abu Mazen probably understands that this is the only way, under the current storm, to determine who will be his successor, and to determine the political reality that will prevail after him. Palestinian sources began to leak around August that Abu Mazen had finally decided that Hussein al-Sheikh would replace him as head of the PLO and Fatah. A Palestinian source told us that Abu Mazen is expected to deliver a speech at the UN Security Council at the end of 2022, and he hinted that if this speech does come to fruition, it will be followed by an interesting political development in the Palestinian Authority; Of course, in light of Iran's growing involvement in the Palestinian arena, Abu Mazen may think that the leaks are about strengthening Fatah's rule, and especially about the international affinity that the Palestinian Authority has, which is actually the Fatah movement, over the wild gang rule of Hamas, and this by mentioning his speeches before the UN Security Council m, which may cool the will of Iran and Hamas to challenge the PA, and open another front against the US. This is of course wishful thinking that has no real grip on politics, and certainly has no grip on violent politics like the Palestinian one.

The announcement of a successor also caused another uproar in Fatah, because Jibril Rajoub has a lot of power in Fatah, as well as Marwan Barghouti, even though he is a prisoner in an Israeli prison. Following this uprising by Rajoub (so far, a quiet uprising), it was leaked from Fatah that if Rajoub opposes Abu Mazen's decision to place Al sheikh at the head of Fatah and the PLO, his blood will be on his head. Barghouti is currently holding his cards behind bars, and no one knows what his moves will be. Abu Mazen's associates therefore do not threaten him either but remain silent on his matter. As mentioned, both Rajov and Barghouti have activists in Fatah who listen to them. Fatah's eighth conference was supposed to take place this summer, but it was repeatedly postponed, for this reason: so that there would be no decision, and if there was, so that it would not be against Abu Mazen's will.

Therefore, the next phase is now coming, which is apparently being planned in Rajoub's office, in Barghouti's prison cell, in the PA offices in Ramallah, in the Fatah headquarters at the entrance to Ramallah, in Nablus with Al Shaar, in Lebanon with Aruri, in the Gulf with Haniyeh, in Bir Zeit and in Najah, in Nablus at the Lions' Den, and of course in Syria between Hamas and Iran and Syria – these days. In the following issues we will report on the direction when it becomes clear.