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Vipin asked: When people in Gaza don't recognise the Palestinian National Authority, how can there be a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question?

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  • Md. Muddassir Quamar replies: It would be incorrect to assume that the ‘people in Gaza’ do not recognise the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). In fact, between 1994 and 2006, the Gaza Strip, along with parts of the West Bank, had remained under the PNA administration in accordance with the Oslo Accords. The problem is between Hamas and Fatah, the two dominant factions of the Palestinian national movement. Broadly, while Hamas represents the Islamist trends within the movement, Fatah reflects the secularist tendencies. Until the Al-Aqsa or the Second Intifada (2000-05), Hamas had remained a minor group and had accepted the dominance of the Fatah-led Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) within the PNA.

    The situation came to a head after the 2006 Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections in which Hamas emerged victorious. Due to differences over various governance and administrative issues, the two dominant factions came to blows causing widespread violence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for several months (2006-07) resulting in over 600 casualties. This eventually led to a split within the PNA, with Fatah dominating the West Bank while Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip. Notably, the Hamas-led administration in the Gaza Strip is not recognised by the international community due to its continued use of violence and refusal to disarm. For precisely these reasons, many countries including Israel and the United States have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Attempts by many Arab countries, most recently by Egypt, to bring about reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah have failed, leading to continued deadlock within the Palestinian national movement.

    The split among the Palestinians thus has undermined the possibility of a two-state solution, which envisages a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel in accordance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 242 and in the spirit of the Oslo Accords. Nevertheless, if one examines the causes of the conflict among the Palestinians, it was mainly the lack of realisation of the promised Palestinian state that caused frustration and eventual conflict between Hamas and Fatah. This is also the reason that a number of Israeli academics have proposed the idea of a three-state solution as they do not anticipate any chance of reconciliation among these two Palestinian factions. Israel has also refused to come to the negotiation table for revival of the Middle East Peace Process, citing lack of a peace partner on the Palestinian side as well as continued rocket attacks inside Israel from the Gaza Strip. Notwithstanding the internal conflict among Palestinians, the real stumbling block towards resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are issues such as the border dispute, status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in occupied territories and the issue of right to return of the Palestinian refugees.

    In the given circumstances, there is little hope for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the foreseeable future. Even the much anticipated ‘Deal of the Century’ publicised by the Donald Trump administration is unlikely to succeed given the intractable nature of the conflict, and the domestic political situation both in Palestine as well as Israel.

    Posted on June 19, 2019