Unity of Palestinian groups: What the EU should do

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Palestinians walk past a mural depicting former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat as they cross the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank to attend the third Friday Prayer of Ramadan at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, 16 June 2017. [AlaaBadarneh/EPA]

The EU can play an effective role in achieving the main objective, which is the two-state solution. Initially, it should recognise Palestine based on the 1967 borders and make the disarming of Hamas a condition of statehood, writes Hamid Bahrami.

Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. Living in Glasgow, Scotland, he is a human rights and political activist and works as a freelance journalist.

After years of schism, the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas have decided to end the bloody split. Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian prime minister, warmly shook hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in the Gaza Strip.

Conflicts between the Palestinian groups is one of the main reasons peace has not been achieved in the long, bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is public knowledge that the Iranian regime is fomenting these conflicts by consistently driving a wedge between various Palestinian groups. Adding fuel to the fire through funding and arming Hamas has been one of Tehran’s tactics.

For those familiar with the Iranian regime’s policy on the Palestinian crisis, it is bitterly understandable why the regime foments these conflicts. Since the 1979 revolution in Iran overthrew Israel’s sole ally in the Middle East, the Islamic regime found anti-Israeli slogans an effective ideological lever to sway public opinion both inside and outside Iran in order to facilitate the export of its “Islamic revolution” to its neighbours.

In fact, a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will effectively disarm Iran’s ruling theocracy. Unfortunately, the mullahs have achieved these goals for more than 30 years.

However, one should not disregard the fact that international policies, specifically the Arab allies’ indifferent negligence and the failed policy of appeasement, have provided Tehran and its terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with a golden opportunity to intensify the conflict.

In recent years, due to IRGC’s crimes in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Hamas finally fathomed what Fatah has been saying for many years.

Furthermore, increased political and economic pressure and the Palestinians’ public demand put Hamas in an irreversible position. Hence, Hamas unveiled a new policy platform which distances it from the IRGC’s goals of destroying Israel.

As a result of Egypt’s mediation between Palestinian groups, they have now begun to solve their conflicts. The different sides involved including Israel, the Arab allies and the US all play specific roles in their favours.

As history reveals, the Iranian regime will not just give up its lever despite having failed ideologically and legitimately inside and outside the country.

Considering that the split between Palestinians secures the regime’s regional interests, Shi’ite clerics will no doubt kindle a new fire between Palestinians.

The Palestinian prime minister leading a unity cabinet in Gaza signals the beginning of reconciliation talks of historic proportions.

In this regard, the UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov highlighted an important issue as he said: “If the region stays engaged, if Egypt’s role continues and if the political parties themselves continue to show the willingness they are currently showing to work with us on this process, then it can succeed.”

Apparently, Hamas is concerned about a likely failure of its talks with Fatah. The words of its deputy chief reflect these concerns.

“Resistance weapons are not for discussion,” said Khalil al-Hayat as he drew a red line for the negotiating sides. Although his words bring a feeling of disappointment, if the Iranian regime is restricted from arming and funding Hamas, the Islamic group will eventually be disarmed.

Israel’s contradictory signals

One of the most effective points to a smooth transition to permanent peace is Israel’s understanding of the reality on the ground.

Stopping the settlements in the West Bank and accepting the two-state solution by Israel will strengthen Fatah’s position in negotiations with Hamas.

In this case, the US should persuade Israel to recognise the 1967 borders.

The EU can play an effective role in achieving the main objective which is the two-state solution. Initially, the EU should recognise Palestine based on the 1967 borders and condition its statehood on disarming Hamas.

Such an action will provide security for Israel and strengthen Fatah’s political position in the future negotiations with Hamas and Israel.

To succeed, the EU has to make it clear to the Iranian regime that Tehran must stop its destructive intervention in this conflict. On the other hand, it is also crucial that Egypt and its Arab allies push the Gaza residents toward Fatah’s goals.

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