Sputnik has discussed the lastest developments with Professor Meir Litvak, a leading Israeli expert on Hamas and chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University.
Sputnik: Why has the government resigned now?
Meir Litvak: I would say this is very much a reflection of the crisis of the Palestinian Authority over its marginalisation in the recent Gaza crisis.
Basically, what’s happening is that Hamas has improved its international position when it reached agreements that it will receive financial support from Qatar with Israeli agreement via Egypt; and the UN and basically all parties ignored the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, which felt it’s been marginalised.
And what they’re trying to do in my view is to reassert their position and hope to increase their legitimacy in the Palestinian population; and I would also say to increase the direct control of the Fatah organisation in the new government because the government under Rami al-Hamdallah was more a government of technocrats, not so much Fatah activists.
Sputnik: What kind of complications does this development pose for efforts at reconciling Gaza’s Hamas rulers?
Meir Litvak: The prospects of reconciliation are becoming smaller by the day. Both sides are more deeply entrenched in their positions; there’s a very high level of distrust among the two organisations.
There’s a lot of bitterness among Fatah against Hamas. Recently Fatah wanted to celebrate its anniversary in Gaza and Hamas didn’t allow them to carry out the ceremony and even dispersed them by force.
Hamas feels pressure inside Gaza because of the bad economic situation in Gaza and they are not willing to make any concessions to Fatah by giving up some of the absolute political control over Gaza.
And unless both sides totally change their positions, I think that the prospect of reconciliation is dismal in the foreseeable future. The more time passes, the more difficult it becomes to achieve reconciliation.
Meir Litvak: No. It will have a minimal impact on the vote in Israel because right now the major topic in the Israeli election will be the questions of Netanyahu’s personality and implications in corruption investigations.
The way it seems now is that since there was a shift to the right in the Israeli public opinion it’s more likely that the right-wing parties will be able to form a new government after the elections; and I don’t think that what is happening in the Palestinian Authority, unless there’s an outbreak of violence that would be a game changer, and if there is no major outbreak of violence, we’ll probably see more of the same situation or same impact on Israeli politics as we had in the past two years.
Sputnik: What if any has been the response to this in Israel? I’m talking about the media; what is the media saying, what are the people saying, and what are the politicians in Israel saying about this move?
Meir Litvak: I would say that each politician believes that that basically what is happening in the West Bank proves that they were correct of what they have always said and they will always find (an excuse) to prove what they’ve been saying.
The media expresses some interest in these affairs but again there’s an awareness that the government doesn’t make policies.
The person that makes policies is Abbas.
So, whether or not some ministers in the Palestinian government change, that doesn’t bring about any change in the political situation or in the relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Sputnik: Of course, everybody is probably concerned about how this could possibly impact the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. What will be the short and long-term effect?
Meir Litvak: We have to say that there is no peace process. The peace process is almost dead; it’s only in words. There’s no real effort on both sides to hold negotiations.
Sputnik: Are you saying that this is not going to have a big effect because there was no peace process?
Meir Litvak: I’m afraid so.
Sputnik: Is this a significant even really? Because it seems really significant when you hear that entire government has just gone and resigned…
Meir Litvak: We must remember that this is not the government who sets policies. This is the government who executes policies. It’s not the government who decides on major political and strategic issues, it’s the government who is more responsible for running day-to-day affairs of ordinary Palestinians.
It is significant in the sense that it reflects, in my view of the deep crisis of the Palestinian authority and the deep crisis of Fatah who are trying desperately to revamp their position vis-à-vis Hamas.
It’s more an indication of crisis than a sign of a new beginning and of a major change.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Meir Litvak and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.