Turkey’s efforts to unite Palestinian groups so far unsuccessful

Turkey’s efforts to unite Palestinian groups so far unsuccessful

It seems that many international pundits made two key miscalculations about U.S. President Donald Trump

First, that he may not stay in office too long as he could be impeached as a result of the investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign’s possible links with the Kremlin. Second, that the establishment would tame him and he would adopt a pragmatic approach instead of governing in line with the populism of his campaign.

Both assumptions have been proven wrong. One by one, Trump is delivering on his campaign promises.

It was already bad news for the world and for Europe in general that he cancelled the trade pact with the European Union and pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement. But it seems that Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has really rung alarm bells among the Europeans, who finally realize they are dealing with a leader who does not feel bound by the interests or views of America’s traditional allies.

European leaders seem surprised and are looking for a way to keep the deal going while avoiding U.S. sanctions. But it looks like there is not much they can do due to the prominent role of the U.S. dollar and U.S. financial institutions in the global economy.

And now comes the implementation of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This move has been condemned and criticized by the international community. It has been one of the rare instances in which the Palestinians have been able to find almost the entire world united behind them against the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi axis. But there is not much they can do with this solidarity as it is not strong enough to reverse the U.S. decision. And with Europeans finding their hands tied even on an issue like the Iran deal that directly threatens their economic interests, one cannot imagine them taking action in favor of the Palestinians. 

The Palestinians have also by now learned that they cannot expect much from the Arab and Islamic world, which has never been genuine in its support for Palestinians.

In short, the Palestinians have only themselves to rely on. Yet for more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinian movement has been split into two rival ideological factions: Fatah and Hamas. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately for over a decade, since clashes between the two groups broke out in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary elections.

This split has been detrimental to the Palestinian cause as the Palestinians have ever since continued to lose ground to Israel.

In October 2017 Fatah and Hamas signed a deal to end their rift. According to the deal, Hamas was to hand administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a Fatah-backed unity government, which was to be followed by elections. However, the parties have since failed to implement the deal, arguing over the interpretation of its details and missing the deadlines they set.

The most contested issue between Hamas and Fatah is the future of weapons in Gaza. Hamas has said it will not accept any group conceding its weapons, prompting the Palestinian Authority to also refrain from implementing the deal’s stipulations.

Turkey has been playing an intense behind-the-scenes role to reconcile the two sides, with presidential officials trying to convince Hamas to keep its part of the deal.

For years the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been seen as a supporter of Hamas and has been criticized by Israel for hosting Hamas’ ruling cadres. While Fatah was not too happy with this situation, it actually its interests to have Turkey’s leverage over its rival.

Turkey’s efforts so far have not borne fruit. But one hopes that the incidents of May 14 will be a turning point in the reconciliation process between the two Palestinian factions. After all, there must be more that they can do other than sending youngsters to die in front of the Israeli army.