The rivalry between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank is a major hurdle to any peace deal with Israel, writes Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh, a former correspondent for the PLO newspaper Al Fajr.
"The fight between Hamas and Fatah is not a power struggle between good guys and bad guys: it is a rivalry between bad guys and bad guys," writes Abu Toameh in a column for the Hudson Institute. It is driven by a thirst for money and power.
Since January 2006, when Hamas won the parliamentary elections, Fatah has worked to undermine Hamas' power, leading to a civil war between the two factions that has been both violent and driven by propaganda.
During the Gaza-Israel war from December 2008-January 2009, Fatah officials gave Israel "valuable intelligence that resulted in the killing of many Hamas operatives." Fatah has also imprisoned hundreds of Hamas members and supporters, shut down Hamas-affiliated institutions in the West Bank and fired civil servants believed to be Hamas supporters. Likewise, Hamas has imprisoned and executed leading Fatah officials, particularly those that are seen as collaborators with Israel.
"This dirty civil war has thus far claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, while thousands of others have been injured," Abu Toameh writes, and "the only way to make progress towards peace is by insisting that the Palestinians first get their act together."
However, he urges the U.S. and the international community to stay out of the fight. "Outside meddling in Palestinian affairs will only exacerbate the crisis."
The depth and brutality of the Hamas-Fatah conflict receives little attention in the mainstream media, yet, as an Arab-Israeli journalist on the ground highlights, the future relationship between the two factions could determine the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.