GAZA — The anger was palpable at a funeral for a Gazan protestor killed during a recent march on the border with Israel. But it wasn’t aimed at Israel, the most glaring target. Instead, much of it was directed at Palestinian leadership.
“May Allah curse all the presidents and leaders, and President Abu Mazen, and everybody claiming to be a leader,” Mohammed Abu Lebda, whose brother, Ahmed, was killed in the October protests, told VICE News. “This all is their making.”
Palestinians and Israelis are ostensibly nearing a ceasefire, with talks between the two ongoing. Egypt even brokered an initial phase meant to bring some calm just a few months ago, in August.
But on the ground, peace doesn’t feel much closer.
That's due in part to the Palestinian leadership, fractured for years, which is now finally cracking. There are two major political parties: the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip. And these two factions are fighting to be the authoritative voice of Palestinians when they join the negotiating table with Israel and the United States.
Until this year, the Palestinian Authority was considered the only legitimate partner for peace. But after the Trump administration decided to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem, a call derided by Palestine, President Abbas cut ties with the U.S. The move swung the door for Hamas — once an unlikely partner for peace — wide open.
In a speech at a special session of Parliament in the West Bank last week, President Mahmoud Abbas told the crowd, “This period that we're going through might be the most dangerous in the lives of the Palestinian people.”
Hamas is now doing what would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: negotiating directly with Israel with Washington’s tacit support — leaving President Abbas fuming on the sidelines.
The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, believes it has been forced to pull out of the talks by the United States, thanks to Trump administration efforts like freezing more than 200 million dollars in aid to the U.N. agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees.
“The problem is the Palestinian Authority, which is not interested for a ceasefire,” Ghazi Hamad, a veteran negotiator for Hamas told VICE News. “They are trying to block this.”
This segment originally aired October 30, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.