As Yasir Arafat lay dying, I predicted the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority into two parts, the West Bank and Gaza. I did so in part based on the growing anarchy of the territories (which has since only grown worse after his death) and in part based on the cultural, social, economic, religious, and political differences between those two regions, a topic excellently explained in 2001 by Jonathan Schanzer in his article, "A Gaza-West Bank Split?"
I thus noted with interest a report in Ha'aretz that the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Major General Aharon Zeevi, today warned cabinet ministers of the increasing likelihood that the PA would split into two independent entities in 2006. He expects Hamas to take control of Gaza, which he dubbed "Hamastan," while Fatah would continue to control the West Bank, or "Fatahstan." In the same meeting, the head of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, also advised the cabinet that the PA might disintegrate. "There is no central government in the [Palestinian] territories. Everyone does what he wants." (December 18, 2005)
Dec. 5, 2006 update: The year 2006 is almost over and there's been no split, but the Palestinian Authority is sure sensitive on this topic, judging be a brief item today from its official website. In a news item titled "PLO Condemns Adwan Statement, Calls for His Removal from Cabinet," we learn that,
The PLO Executive Committee condemned the undignified statement made by Minister Atef Adwan, from Hamas, against the head of the Palestinian National Authority (PLO), as well as the minister's call for the partition of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.
The executive committee also called for Adwan to lose his parliamentary immunity and dismissal.
What two Palestines could look like.
What two Palestines could look like.
During one of the clashes between the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas parties, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to go to Gaza and faced an odd reaction. "What is he coming here for?" some Hamas members asked. "Who invited him?" recalled Shalom Harari, a prominent Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is also head of the nationalist Fatah Party. Harari took the comments as indicating that some members of the Islamic Hamas consider the Gaza Strip their turf, a Hamasatan. … "We are seeing the beginning of two states. A state of Gaza under Hamas' control and the State of the West Bank governed from Ramallah.'
Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian politician and now vice president of Bir Zeit University, talked of signs that Gaza and the West Bank drifting apart. He noted the consequences of the lack of travel between the West Bank and Gaza:
Bir Zeit University [in the West Bank] has no students from Gaza and the Islamic University in Gaza has none from the West Bank. Employees of same government ministry—one in Gaza and the other in the West Bank—cannot work together nor interact except over the phone and the Internet. There is no exchange of expertise; no exchange of views, and members of the same party cannot hold joint conferences. "With time it will become difficult for people to think alike and take joint decisions. Gradually you will see the economic situation and social (situation) become different," Khatib predicted.
Khatib sees "growing discrepancies in the politics and discourse of Gaza and the West Bank."
Public opinion polls used to show differences between West Bankers and Gazans, but they were within the margin of error, he told UPI. Not any longer. "In last 2-3 years we started noticing differences," he said. A poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center "indicated serious differences between the two publics on most issues," he reported. And so, in the last JMCC poll, 43.4 percent of the West Bankers supported suicide bombings against Israelis but in Gaza 55.9 percent of the respondents favored it.
Khatib concludes that "There is a very very dangerous process of separation in all levels, economic social legislative and political."
June 19, 2007 update: With the Hamas seizure of Gaza on June 14, I note the new reality in a column, "Two Palestines, Anyone?"