Americans today are voting to choose their next president, something Palestinians have not done since 2005. But political rivalries remain, and not only that between the Fatah faction of the PLO, which rules in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules in Gaza. More important, argues Pinḥas Inbari, is the conflict between leaders who have remained rooted in their communities, and the PLO leaders who followed Yasir Arafat into exile to Jordan, then Lebanon, and finally Tunis—where the terrorist group was based from 1983 until the Oslo Accords allowed for Arafat’s return a decade later. Recently, this conflict has been expressed in fighting between Fatah forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and those loyal to his rival Mohammad Dahlan:
The tensions came to an explosive head because of the peace agreements between Israel and the Gulf States and reports that Dahlan is affiliated with the Emirates. In eastern Jerusalem, Dahlan supporters were expelled from the ranks of the “official” Fatah, but they are organizing separately. While Ramallah mobilizes violent elements from the underworld, Dahlan’s people are organizing around former [representatives] of the “inside” Palestinian leadership against the “outside” Fatah leaders from Tunis who arrived after the Oslo Accords.
It is a mistake to view the competition for the Palestinians’ leadership as just a battle of personalities. The example of eastern Jerusalem illustrates that the real struggle is between the local Palestinians and the “outside” Tunis leadership imposed on them during the Oslo Accords.
The issue of the struggle versus Dahlan also emerged as a significant topic in the recent fake reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas in Turkey. Fatah asked Hamas to cooperate against Dahlan, and Hamas refused. There are many reasons for Hamas’s refusal, but one of the critical reasons is that Hamas also feels itself “inside” and not “outside.”