The events in Gaza over the last few days have been described in the West as a coup. In essence, they have been the opposite. Eighteen months ago, our Hamas Party won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and entered office under Prime Minister Ismail Haniya but never received the handover of real power from Fatah, the losing party. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has now tried to replace the winning Hamas government with one of his own, returning Fatah to power while many of our elected members of Parliament languish in Israeli jails. That is the real coup.
From the day Hamas won the general elections in 2006 it offered Fatah the chance of joining forces and forming a unity government. It tried to engage the international community to explain its platform for peace. It has consistently offered a 10-year cease-fire with the Israelis to try to create an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences. Hamas even adhered to a unilateral cease-fire for 18 months in an effort to normalize the situation on the ground. None of these points appear to have been recognized in the press coverage of the last few days.
Nor has it been evident to many people in the West that the civil unrest in Gaza and the West Bank has been precipitated by the American and Israeli policy of arming elements of the Fatah opposition who want to attack Hamas and force us from office. For 18 months we have tried to find ways to coexist with Fatah, entering into a unity government, even conceding key positions in the cabinet to their and international demands, negotiating up until the last moment to try to provide security for all of our people on the streets of Gaza.
Sadly, it became apparent that not all officials from Fatah were negotiating in good faith. There were attempts on Mr. Haniya’s life last week, and eventually we were forced into trying to take control of a very dangerous situation in order to provide political stability and establish law and order.
The streets of Gaza are now calm for the first time in a very long time. We have begun disarming some of the drug dealers and the armed gangs and we hope to restore a sense of security and safety to the citizens of Gaza. We want to get children back to school, get basic services functioning again, and provide long-term economic gains for our people.
Our stated aim when we won the election was to effect reform, end corruption and bring economic prosperity to our people. Our sole focus is Palestinian rights and good governance. We now hope to create a climate of peace and tranquillity within our community that will pave the way for an end to internal strife and bring about the release of the British journalist Alan Johnston, whose kidnapping in March by non-Hamas members is a stain on the reputation of the Palestinian people.
We reject attempts to divide Palestine into two parts and to pass Hamas off as an extreme and dangerous force. We continue to believe that there is still a chance to establish a long-term truce. But this will not happen unless the international community fully engages with Hamas.
Any further attempts to marginalize us, starve our people into submission or attack us militarily will prove that the United States and Israeli governments are not genuinely interested in seeing an end to the violence. Dispassionate observers over the next few weeks will be able to make up their own minds as to each side’s true intentions.
The author, Ahmed Yousef, serves as senior political adviser to thepopularly elected Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.