Hamas-Fatah Face-Off Stymies Palestinians

GAZA/YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

In recent weeks, a flurry of envoys has beaten a path to Gaza’s door: representatives from Qatar, Turkey, the United Nations, the European Union and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter have all visited or tried to visit.

Yet the result has been the same: no success in reconciling Hamas and Fatah.

Nearly a year since the two factions signed a “national reconciliation” agreement, they are no nearer to bridging their differences or tackling the mounting challenges Palestinians’ face.

Fatah is convinced Hamas is trying to carve out an Islamist fiefdom in the 260 square miles of the Gaza Strip. Hamas goads Fatah about its unwillingness to hold elections out of fear it will lose and Hamas will end up in full control.

Such deep internal divisions are in part the reason why Israel keeps repeating that it has no Palestinian partner to deal with, making a return to peace negotiations near impossible.

Foreign diplomats express deep frustration with the situation and tend to find blame on both sides: Hamas is authoritarian and difficult to pin down, but Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas seems inclined to wash his hands of Gaza, too.

“You can’t impose a solution from the outside. These guys have got to sort it out themselves,” said one European diplomat.

Gaza political analyst Hani Habib sees a dangerous future.

“Seven years on, we are closer to having two [Palestinian] states, one in Gaza and one in Yehudah and Shomron, not the two states of Palestine and Israel,” he said.