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January 22, 2019 No.
1433

Fatah-Hamas Schism Widens Further Following Ruling By Palestinian Authority Constitutional Court – Established By Palestinian Authority President 'Abbas – To Disband Palestinian Legislative Council

By: S. Schneidmann*

Introduction

Relations between Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud 'Abbas, and Hamas are now extremely tense, and the two organizations' positions have not been farther apart since the 2007 Hamas coup against the PA in Gaza. In recent weeks, the tension has become so great, and the schism between them so wide, that it appears that both sides – which, incidentally, both accuse the U.S. of striving, by means of the Deal of the Century, to create two separate Palestinian entities, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are doing just that on their own, without any help from the U.S. Things have reached the point where each side is saying that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people, that it will never return to talks or reconciliation efforts, and that it will act to bring down the regime of the other.  

What prompted the further deterioration in relations was PA President 'Abbas's announcement, at a December 22, 2018 meeting of the Palestinian leadership, that the PA's Constitutional Court had decided to disband the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – which has been controlled by Hamas since 2006 – and to call for elections for a new legislative council within six months.[1] 'Abbas added that he intended to implement the Constitutional Court's decision to hold new elections for a legislative council, and that he is already consulting in the matter PA Central Elections Commission chairman Dr. Hanna Nasser.[2] At the same time, the PA government is already implementing the decision on the ground, taking steps against the council members. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced that the PLC members had "retired," and it was reported that the PA had, among other measures, cancelled their diplomatic passports and instructed foreign countries to see them as private citizens.[3]

The PA decision to disband the PLC is the latest in the string of measures taken by 'Abbas over the past 18 months against Hamas, in the PA-Hamas dispute over who is the legitimate ruler, and as part of his attempts to restore PA rule in the Gaza Strip. Thus, in April 2017, 'Abbas leveled sanctions against the Gaza Strip, including refusal to pay the salaries of PA officials there and reducing the PA's payments to Israel for Gaza's electricity.[4] Likewise, in April 2018, 'Abbas convened the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to authorize the PLO Central Council to act as the PLO legislative authority – a step interpreted as aimed at circumventing the Hamas-controlled PLC.[5]

The decision to disband the PLC, which was fully backed by Fatah and reviled by Hamas, ignited the clash between the two, in which each side accused the other of responsibility for the crisis, of perpetuating the schism between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and of promoting the U.S. Deal of the Century. Each also accused the other of acting contrary to Palestinian law, maintaining an illegitimate and unconstitutional government, and, as noted, threatening to bring down the other's regime. Each of the sides are now calling for elections – the PA for the PLC, and Hamas also for the PA presidency and the Palestinian National Council (PNC).

As tensions have risen, verbal abuse has become common, with Hamas calling 'Abbas an "enemy of the Palestinian people," a "traitor," and a "dictator" and declaring him unfit to lead. At the same time, Fatah is accusing Hamas of not being part of the Palestinian national program. The situation has also spilled over into physical violence, with each organization carrying out an unprecedented wave of arrests of the members of the rival organization, across the Gaza Strip (of PA members) and the West Bank (of Hamas members).[6] Hamas has also prevented Fatah from holding events in the Gaza Strip marking the 54th anniversary of its founding.[7] Furthermore, after armed gunmen broke into and vandalized the headquarters of PA TV in Gaza, Fatah, for fear of further escalation, announced the closure of its offices across the Gaza Strip, and the PA withdrew its officials from the Rafah crossing.[8] Furthermore, the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported recently that 'Abbas was planning "a series of forceful measures" against Hamas, including cutting all PA budgets allocated to the Hamas-controlled ministries in Gaza, with the aim of bringing down its rule there and forcing it to cede power to the PA.

This report reviews the escalation of tensions between Fatah and Hamas following the disbanding of the PLC and attitudes towards it in Fatah and Hamas and among writers in the Palestinian press.

Fatah Attempts To Justify Disbanding Of PLC, While Presenting No Clear Plan For Next Stage

PA, Fatah and PLO officials expressed absolute support for the Constitutional Court's decision to disband the PLC, stating that the PLC had failed to perform its role and had become a tool of Hamas, and that the decision paved the way to restoring Palestinian democracy. They clarified that the next step will be holding general parliamentary elections in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Possibly in an attempt to provide a legal basis for the decision, they stressed that the need to dissolve the PLC and hold elections followed from the May 4, 2018 PNC decision to transition from the Palestinian Authority stage to the stage of a Palestinian state.[9]

Fatah Central Committee member 'Abbas Zaki justified the decision by noting that the PLC had not been functioning for 12 years and had done nothing to end the schism between Fatah and Hamas. Fatah Revolutionary Council member Majed Al-Fityani warned that whoever disobeyed the court's ruling would be regarded as a "rebel," adding that Hamas ought to welcome the decision.[10] PLO Executive Committee secretary Saeb Erekat said that "the Constitutional Court is the highest authority of the [Palestinian] state, and its decision is binding."[11] In another statement, he remarked that the decision was "a historic opportunity to remove the reasons for the schism and affect a reconciliation by going back to the ballot [to determine] the people's will in free and fair general elections." He stressed that the election would take place "in the occupied Palestinian territories, namely in the [West] Bank, [East] Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip," and added that the PLC had not been performing its role as defined by the Palestinian Basic Law since the 2007 Hamas coup, and that the decision to dissolve it was part of the PNC decision "to transition from a Palestinian Authority to the [Palestinian] state."[12]  Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Shtaya said, in a similar vein, that "138 countries all over the world have recognized the state of Palestine, [so] there is no longer any reason to speak of a transitional authority [i.e., the Palestinian Authority]."[13]

However, despite these statements, the Palestinian officials are surely aware that, as long as Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, it will be difficult to impossible for the PA to hold parliamentary elections there. Muhammad Shtaya said that the PA wants to hold the elections in the West Bank, in Jerusalem and in Gaza, but added that it would not hold them "under [the control of] the Hamas police."[14] Some officials assessed that Israel might also object to the PA holding the elections in Jerusalem. In an interview with Egyptian journalists, 'Abbas said: "If the elections do not take place in Jerusalem, I will not agree to hold them at all."[15]

In light of these difficulties, some Fatah and PA officials mentioned possible "alternatives" to an election, but their vague language suggests that the PA does not have a clear plan for the next stage. Fatah Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani said that one of the measures would be establishing "a PLO government... in which Hamas will have no part."[16] On another occasion he said that the Palestinians have two options: establishing either "the parliament of the Palestinian state" or "a constitutional assembly" – but provided no further explanation. He added that, if Israel prevents holding elections in Jerusalem or Hamas prevents holding them in Gaza, the Palestinian leadership would discuss "alternatives."[17] Muhammad Shtaya said that "the Palestinian leadership will hold elections to the parliament of the state of Palestine, not to the legislative [council] of the PA."[18] He said further that, "if Hamas insists that it does not want elections... we will opt for a different alternative that will allow preserving the state institutions,"[19] but did not explain what this alternative is. Moreover, the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida acknowledged that "Palestinian officials do not rule out that the present situation may continue for a long time without elections [being held], until some development takes place to end the schism, which is becoming a [virtual] abyss between the West Bank and Gaza."[20]  

Fatah Officials: Hamas Is Not Part Of The Palestinian National Fold; We Will Bring Down Its Rule In Gaza

As stated, Hamas retaliated for the disbanding of the PLC by canceling the events planned by Fatah in Gaza to mark the 54th anniversary of its founding; this in turn prompted Fatah and PLO officials to escalate their statements against Hamas. They said that Hamas is not part of the Palestinian national fold but a branch of the global Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which serves the MB's interests and strives to turn Gaza into an "Islamic emirate" or a "mini-state" and is cooperating with Israel and the U.S. in promoting the Deal of the Century. For example, in his speech on the occasion of Fatah's anniversary, 'Abbas called Hamas and the Muhammad Dahlan faction "spies" who belong "in the trash-bin of history."[21] Fatah Central Committee member Hussein Al-Sheikh said that the dissolving of the PLC puts an end to Hamas's attempts to eliminate the Palestinian cause and found an emirate or mini-state in the Gaza Strip as part of the Deal of the Century,[22] and declared that from this point forward there will be no more dialogue with Hamas.[23] Qadri Abu Bakr, chairman of the PA's Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission and a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, said that his movement had informed Egypt that it had severed all ties with Hamas. He also threatened Hamas that, if it prevents the holding of the elections in Gaza or boycotts them, it will be declared to be "outside the Palestinian national ranks," and "severe measures" will be taken against it. Hamas, he added, is clearly not interested in reconciliation and must not be allowed to continue controlling the Gaza Strip, since it is planning a coup in the West Bank as well.[24]

Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the PA Supreme Shari'a Judge and 'Abbas's advisor for religious affairs, said that Hamas, which has no connection to Palestinian nationalism but is part of the MB, is subverting the PLO in collaboration with the U.S. and Israel. "Hamas," he added, "will not agree to reconcile [with Fatah] voluntarily, so it must be shackled and forced [to reconcile with it]... There are many measures that can be taken in order to force it to accept the reconciliation, both on the internal level and in collaboration with the Arab world, in particular with Egypt..."[25] Yahya Rabbah, a Fatah official in Gaza, threatened that "Hamas will [soon] see a different facet of Fatah, namely its forceful and direct response, no matter what the cost... Hamas, which is subordinate to the global MB, has become a liability for the Palestinian people and its cause..."[26]  'Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee, even threatened that the Palestinian leadership will "bring down [Hamas's] de-facto rule in Gaza," adding that "I question the patriotism of anyone who remains silent in the face of its actions."[27]

Articles In PA Daily: Hamas Presents Itself As A Victim, When It Is The One That Violated The Constitution

Criticism of Hamas and support for the decision to disband the PLC were also expressed in articles in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. Columnist Bassem Barhoum defended the decision on the grounds that it will hasten an end to the intra-Palestinian schism. He wrote: "I and many others burst out laughing every time we hear some individual or faction saying that the [court's] decision [to disband the PLC] contravenes the Palestinian Basic Law. These people disregard the fact that the Basic Law was violated when Hamas staged its coup in the Gaza Strip... We must ask anyone who opposes [the decision] why he is interested in preserving Hamas's coup with all the destructive effects it has for us. Is not the Constitutional Court's decision disband the PLC and go back to the people [by holding elections] not a possible means of ending the schism?"[28]

Another columnist, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muwaffaq Matar, welcomed the court's decision, which strips Hamas and Dahlan faction MPs of their parliamentary immunity and thus makes it possible to take legal action against them: "The Constitutional Court's decision removed the parliamentary immunity that shielded murderers, criminals and corrupt individuals and allowed them to evade the Palestinian and international rule of law... The Constitutional Court's decision will allow the Palestinian police, which is a member of Interpol, to demand the arrest of individuals who have perpetrated criminal and security offenses or embezzled public funds but have evaded [justice] for a decade by covering themselves from head to toe in the oil of [parliamentary] immunity..."[29] An another column, Matar called the Hamas PLC members hypocritical, since they present themselves as the victims when they supported Hamas's 2007 coup against the Fatah in Gaza and are now plotting to perpetrate a coup in the West Bank as well. He wrote: "They are [preparing] the ground for a second coup in the [West] Bank... [yet PLC Speaker] Dr. ['Aziz] Dweik encapsulated his word view and [demonstrated] his rhetorical abilities when he described the Constitutional Court's decision as 'the era of darkness' and 'a coup against the people and against legitimacy'! Al-Dweik cloaked himself in the mantle of the victim, believing that people cannot tell the difference between the oppressor – who supported the perpetrators of the coup, whose hands drip blood, and legitimized their crime – and the fraudulent mask [of the victim] which, despite the efforts of the people behind it, [only] exposes the true face of those who wear it and of the other members of their organization..."[30]     

Hamas: The Decision To Disband The PLC Is Unconstitutional; 'Abbas Is Unfit To Be President

The announcement that the PLC was to be disbanded sparked furious reactions from Hamas, which called the decision invalid because the Constitutional Court was not an independent court but an ad-hoc institution established by 'Abbas that has no authority to change the PLC's sovereign status.

Hamas said in a statement: "Instead of responding to Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya's initiative [to achieve] national unity and end the schism[31]... ['Abbas] is desperately trying to implement his policy of eliminating and destroying the Palestinian political system... ending pluralism and destroying our people's legitimate institutions – with the aim of [gaining] exclusive control of the Palestinian decision[-making]... to exclude all the national factions and to eliminate any effort to achieve unity and reconciliation." It went on to emphasize Hamas's willingness to hold and run in general elections provided that they are held for the presidency, the PLC, and the PLO's PNC, with national consensus, and provided that Fatah abides by their results.[32]

Ahmad Bahar, Hamas official and deputy chair of the PLC, sent a letter to the UN, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to protest against the decision to disband the PLC, stressing that the decision was null and void and was against the Palestinian Basic Law, and that the Constitutional Court judges were not independent because they were chosen by 'Abbas from among the Fatah supporters.[33]

Furthermore, the Hamas faction in the PLC held a vote of no confidence in 'Abbas and passed a resolution stating that he was no longer fit to serve as president of the Palestinian people, and Bahar even called on Arab countries to stop viewing him as such.[34]

'Abbas Has Revealed Himself As An Enemy Of The Palestinian People And As Serving The Deal Of The Century; His Dictatorial Regime Must Be Brought Down

Just as the anti-Hamas discourse of PA and Fatah officials has escalated, Hamas officials' discourse focused on insulting 'Abbas himself, even calling him a "traitor," a "dictator," and an "enemy of the Palestinian people." Many accused him of serving the U.S., Israel, and the Deal of the Century. For example, Hamas political bureau member Khalil Al-Haya underlined that the PLC did not recognize the decision of 'Abbas's Constitutional Court, and that this move by 'Abbas was absolutely in line with the Deal of the Century that, he said, "is aimed at isolating Gaza and the West Bank and separating them from each other." He added that 'Abbas's positions proved that he is an "enemy of the Palestinian people and of its resistance."[35]

Hamas political bureau member Moussa Abu Marzouq accused 'Abbas of creating a crisis and noted that in light of the fact that his presidential term had ended, he, his Constitutional Court, and the PLO Central Committee no longer had any powers except to call for elections for the PLC and the presidency.[36] Abu Marzouq rejected the discourse of the PLO officials focusing on "a transition from an authority to a state" and said that "the PA is sinking and the land of the West Bank on which it stands is being consumed day by day... It lives on islands separated from each other by the Israeli settlement, and it has no sovereignty even over its own headquarters. How will ['Abbas] move to the state stage when he is leading a divided people?"[37]

Hamas's attack on 'Abbas escalated further following the arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank. For example, 'Issam Al-Da'lis, deputy head of Hamas's political department, said that he "believes with complete faith that Mahmoud 'Abbas is an authentic part of the Deal of the Century and that he is diligently carrying out what is asked of him [by the U.S. and Israel]."[38] Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called on the Palestinian factions to draw up a "national rescue plan" to bring down what he referred to as 'Abbas's dictatorial regime and to prevent him from implementing the Deal of the Century.[39]

In extremely harsh statements, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri insisted that 'Abbas was a "spy,"[40] and added that his policy, as manifested by strangling Gaza and by his decision to disband the PLC, "proves that he is involved in the plan to split the Gaza Strip [from the West Bank] and that he has chosen to end his life as a traitor to the [Palestinian national] cause..."[41] Hamas official Maher Salah declared that no Palestinian reconciliation was possible in the 'Abbas era,[42] and Hamas, in a response to a speech by 'Abbas marking Fatah's 54th anniversary, called on all elements of the Palestinian people to oppose 'Abbas's "repressive" rule.[43]

Writers In Hamas Newspapers: 'Abbas Is Acting Like A Dictator, And Does Not Belong To The Palestinian People; West Bank Citizens Must Rebel

Columnist Yousuf Rizqa penned a series in the Hamas newspaper Filastin that set out Hamas's position on the PA's Constitutional Court decision to disband the PLC. He stated: "Why did 'Abbas declare the disbanding of the PLC at this time, and what are his aims?... 'Abbas looked around him and saw that Hamas is leading in the internal and external arenas and in international relations... Perhaps he saw this as a danger, particularly in light of the fact that the legislative [council] headed by Hamas is reinforcing its breakthrough [into the] international [arena]... 'Abbas will gain nothing from his decision to disband the council... The Palestinian political system, rotten from the outset, will suffer a constitutional vacuum. Does 'Abbas want to transition into the Deal of the Century through this vacuum?... "[44]

In another column, Rizqa wrote: "The legal term duration of the [legislative] council is four years, and the legal term duration of the PA president is also four years... Why, then, has the legislative [council's] term ended, while the president's term has not[?]... Most PLC members are from Hamas... and none of them have received their monthly salary since July 5, 2007. Only Fatah members have been paid. So who is spending the [public] funds without working?..."[45]

Mustafa Al-Sawwaf, columnist for the Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risalah, also wrote a series attacking what he referred to as 'Abbas's dictatorial conduct, and even called on him to completely relinquish PA activity and return to Palestinian revolutionary law.[46] He wrote: "'Abbas's decision, [which is not] the Constitutional Court's... is like a blow to all Egypt's past efforts and Russia's new efforts to bring about an intra[-Palestinian ] reconciliation. This is a decision that is tantamount to cutting the Gaza [Strip] off from the West Bank, in order to prepare the ground for the Deal of the Century that 'Abbas claims to oppose while actually implementing... A civil rebellion in the [West] Bank must be the first step to dealing with his dictatorship and in preventing him from controlling the fate of the [Palestinian] people and cause..."[47] 

In a second column, Sawwaf wrote: "Since Oslo, we have been [trapped] in a vicious cycle, and we are divided... There is no escape from returning to the revolutionary struggle and from implementing Palestinian revolutionary Law, and the law will apply to anyone opposing this. This follows all the failures and losses over bad years that yielded nothing but more frustration, appropriation of lands, settlements, Judaization of Jerusalem, and the loathed [Fatah-Hamas] division."[48]

In a third column on the subject, Sawwaf attacked 'Abbas for what he called his renunciation of the Palestinian resistance to Israel, said that he did not represent the positions of the Palestinian people, and called for him to step down: "When Mahmoud 'Abbas refers to resistance fighters and martyrs as murderers who came to murder him in the West Bank with their anti-occupation activity,[49] it is crystal-clear proof that A'bbas fears the resistance more than the occupation fears it. He believes that resistance members' striking the occupation forces is striking him and his defeatist submission plan... It makes no sense for the leader of the people to not express the will of the people. If he insists on his position, which is contrary to the position of the people, he must step down and let the people choose someone who believes in its sure views and strives to actualize and defend its rights... All Mahmoud 'Abbas's actions, decisions, and behavior indicate that he does not belong to the Palestinian people... All Palestinians, wherever they are, [must] say in one voice: 'Mahmoud 'Abbas does not represent us and we do not recognize him.' The world must realize this, and must let the Palestinian people choose its representative..."[50]

Palestinian Writers Concerned By Widening Of Schism, Fear Descent Into Violence

Criticism of the legitimacy of the decision to disband the PLC came not only from Hamas and its supporters but also from writers in the Palestinian press that is not identified with either Fatah or Hamas. Some of these writers argued also that the Constitutional Court had overstepped its authority by declaring the disbanding of the PLC, and called for elections, while others questioned whether it was even possible to hold elections under the current circumstances. There were those who criticized both Fatah and Hamas and accused both of prioritizing their own interests over national considerations and over the Palestinian democracy, and who called for creating a third political element to balance the situation. Additionally, there were those who expressed fears that the situation would descend into violence, as happened in 2007 when Hamas took over the Gaza strip.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the unaffiliated Palestinian press has criticized 'Abbas and the PA.[51]

Article In Al-Quds Daily: The Constitutional Court Overstepped Its Authority

Attorney Ibrahim Sha'ban rejected the argument that the Palestinian Basic Law allows the Constitutional Court or President 'Abbas to disband the PLC. In an article in the Al-Quds daily, he stated that the PLC's term had in any event ended in 2010, and that the current Fatah-Hamas hostility was political, not legal. He wrote: "The Constitutional Court... overstepped the bounds of its authority and went too far when it added to its decision a special appeal to His Honor the President of the State to hold elections for the PLC within six months from the date of the official registration of the court's [decision]...  In the [Palestinian] Basic Law of 2003 dealing with the judiciary, there is no section allowing any court or authority to disband the PLC, under any circumstances and in any way... Is there any logic in the Palestinian judiciary, embodied by the Constitutional Court and appointed autocratically, disbanding the PLC that was elected democratically?..."[52]

Al-Ayyam Columnist: What About The Timing Of The Decision To Disband The PLC And Hold Elections?

Sadeq Al-Shafi'i, columnist for Al-Ayyam, asked questions about the possible elections: "The decision to disband the PLC aroused, and continues to arouse, an uproar and a general atmosphere of disagreement. Likewise, it raises several questions concerning its legitimacy, its pragmatic aspect, and its timing – especially regarding the possibility of elections... Why did the government turn to the Constitutional Court without a discussion on the subject and without an appropriate PNC or Central Council decision?... Will the decision to hold elections within six months be announced, and will they indeed take place? Will the occupation state's position vis-à-vis the holding [of elections] be neutral, or will it delay or prevent them? Is there a realistic possibility that they will be held? Particularly, if Hamas, or other elements that agree with it, refuse to participate in them and refuse to allow them to be held in the Gaza Strip? Will it be possible to keep moving towards elections in such a situation?... Will the elections be limited to the PLC, or will there be [other elections] immediately afterwards in other areas [i.e. for the presidency and the PNC], which need elections no less urgently?..."[53]

Another Al-Ayyam Columnist: We're Reverting To The Language Of Weapons And Violence, Like In 2007

Akram 'Atallah, another Al-Ayyam columnist, warned that the Fatah-Hamas conflict could again become violent as it did in 2007. He wrote: "Here we are, after all these years, returning to square one and settling scores with force. [We are] returning to what happened over 11 years ago, when weapons were the only language we understood, and when the streets and rooftops bore the mark of our shame written in the blood of our sons, because we could not resolve our differences under a single framework and under one [political] roof, and [our disagreements] spilled out into the streets... We have [now] moved from verbal violence to physical violence, and from fear that this would happen to the beginning of a descent into the law of the jungle... Worst of all, we are still under occupation... How can we demand that Israel stop its policy [towards us] while every day we continue to act like [Israel] amongst ourselves?..."[54]

Yet Another Al-Ayyam Columnist: Fatah, Hamas Are Looking After Their Own Interests; We Need A Third Element

Al-Ayyam columnist Muhannad 'Abd Al-Hamid criticized Fatah's and Hamas's undemocratic behavior and commented that only a third powerful element could decide matters between them.[55] He wrote: "The two movements [Fatah and Hamas] are acting individually, placing their narrow interests above any other consideration. Although there is a great difference in the extent of the damage done to the people by the interests of each, in the national question, Hamas is doing greater damage because it is agreeing to the Deal of the Century and to splitting the [Gaza] Strip from the [West] Bank...

"Both movements are mercilessly destroying democracy; both parties are permanently in power, are exploiting the other organizations, are punishing them for their positions, and are acting to bring them into their policy. In the absence of a third significant and influential element in the balance of power, the  conflict will keep burning hotly, and it has already entered a new stage in which each side is attempting to disarm the other... This equation will continue until a third powerful element emerges, that can join a coalition with the other two sides in order to stop the deterioration..."[56]

* S. Schneidmann is a research fellow at MEMRI.

 

 

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 23, 2018. The Constitutional Court was established by 'Abbas in 2016. The PA daily stressed that its establishment was based on a law passed by the PLC, which in turn was based on the Palestinian Basic Law, which serves as the PA constitution.  Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 27, 2018.

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 25, 2018.

[3] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 26, 2018; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 27, 2018.

[4] The decision to impose the sanctions was taken by 'Abbas in April 2017, in response to Hamas's establishment of the Administrative Committee to manage Gaza's affairs on the grounds that the PA was not meeting its obligations in this respect. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1402, Campaign In West Bank Against Palestinian Authority's Sanctions On Gaza, June 21, 2018.

[5] Al-Hayat (Dubai), May 4, 2018; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 30, 2018.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), palinfo.com, December 31, 2018; the Palestinian security apparatuses prevented PLC Speaker and Hamas official 'Aziz Dweik from holding a press conference in Ramallah, and Dweik refused a summons for questioning by the security apparatuses over his attempt to hold the press conference. Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 27, 2018; palinfo.com, December 26, 2018.

[7] Fatehmedia.ps, December 31, 2018; maannews.net, January 6, 2019. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reports that, while preventing 'Abbas supporters from holding such events, Hamas allowed the followers of 'Abbas's rival Dahlan to hold them, and that Hamas plans to recognize members of Dahlan's faction as the sole representatives of Fatah in Gaza. Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 3, 2019.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 5,7, 2019.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 4, 2018.

[10] Fatahmedia.ps, December 24, 2018.

[11] Fatehorg.ps, December 24, 2018.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 29, 2018..

[13] Wafa.ps, January 2, 2019.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 30, 2018.

[15] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 5, 2019.

[16] Palsawa.com. December 26, 2018.

[17] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 28, 2018.

[18] Wafa.ps, January 2, 2019.

[19] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 30, 2018.

[20] Al-Hayat (Dubai), January 5, 2019.

[21] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 1, 2019.

[22] Fatehmedia.ps, December 23, 2018.

[23] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 2, 2019.

[24] Nn.ps, January 2, 2019.

[25] Wafa.ps, January 8, 2019.

[26] Alwatanvoice.com, January 2, 2019.

[27] Nn.ps, January 7, 2019.

[28] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2018.

[29] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2018.

[30] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 27, 2018.

[31] A reference to Haniya's speech on the occasion of Hamas's 33rd anniversary in July 2018, in which he expressed his willingness to meet with 'Abbas.

[32] Hamas.ps, December 23, 2018.

[33] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 30, 2018.

[34] Al-Risalah (Gaza), January 9, 2019.

[35] Palsawa.com, December 23, 2018; Hamas.ps, December 26, 2018.

[36] Palsawa.com, December 23, 2018.

[37] Al-Risalah (Gaza), January 2, 2019.

[38] Palsawa.com, December 25, 2018.

[39] Al-Risalah (Gaza), January 6, 2019.

[40] Al-Risalah (Gaza), December 31, 2018.

[41] Palsawa.com, January 6, 2019.

[42] Al-Risalah (Gaza), January 3, 2019.

[43] Hamas.ps, January 1, 2019.

[44] Filastin (Gaza), December 25, 2018.

[45] Filastin (Gaza), December 26, 2018.

[46] A reference to the PLO's Penal Law of 1979, that Hamas courts in the Gaza Strip also go by for cases such as treason and collaboration with the enemy, for example. Moi.gov.ps, December 3, 2018.

[47] Al-Risalah (Gaza), December 24, 2018.

[48] Al-Risalah (Gaza), December 27, 2018.

[49] A reference to statements by 'Abbas at a December 22, 2018 meeting of the Palestinian leadership: "Hamas is part of the Palestinian people... but we have a grave dispute with it, and they are sending us [i.e. to the West Bank] people who will murder us and sow anarchy here..." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 23, 2018.

[50] Al-Risalah (Gaza), December 31, 2018.

[52] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 1, 2019.

[53] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 29, 2018.

[54] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 6, 2018.

[55] The writer may be hinting at the Palestinian Democratic Alliance, a new coalition of leftist forces such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front. One of its aims was to tackle the polarized Fatah-Hamas situation. Samanews.ps, December 18, 2018; Raialyoum.com, January 3, 2019.

[56] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2018.