JERUSALEM, Israel – Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's 30-vehicle delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip midday Monday to a hero's welcome and "by far the most ambitious attempt at reconciliation since Hamas seized power of the coastal strip in 2007," the Times of Israel reported.
The former university professor turned prime minister told the crowd the P.A. government is committed to helping its residents and to reconciling the two rival Palestinian factions.
"Alleviating the suffering of our people in the Gaza Strip is a priority of the government," Hamdallah said. "We declare to the world from the heart of Gaza that the Palestinian state will only come with the unification of the West Bank and Gaza."
Following a decade of Hamas rule, life in Gaza has steadily deteriorated, perhaps making Hamdallah's call "to end the division and achieve unity" more palatable to its residents.
Abbas Blames Israel
While Hamdallah read his prepared speech to Gazans, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas told Egypt's CBC satellite television a Palestinian state won't happen "anytime soon," Arutz Sheva reported. Abbas blamed the Israeli government for the stalemate.
"Standing against us is a right-wing government, and it's setting the policy right now," Abbas said, according to the report. "That government doesn't want peace and doesn't recognize the existence of the Palestinian people."
U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt sanctioned Hamdallah's visit, saying "the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities for Gaza."
But there are a few conditions.
"The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations," Greenblatt said.
That's a nonstarter for Abbas, who refused to heed the call of U.S. President Donald Trump to end payments to terrorists and their families.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday from the Israeli city of Ma'ale Adumim just outside Jerusalem, "We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognize the State of Israel and, of course, to recognize a Jewish state, and we are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence."
Tel Avi University professor Eyal Zisser summed up the latest unity push as "a charade," saying Hamas is striving to follow the same tactics as Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy.
In Lebanon, Zisser explains, Hezbollah allows the Lebanese government to handle diplomacy while it remains "the driving military force." He calls it a "comfortable situation" for the terror group, one Hamas would like to emulate.
Zisser says Hamas is the "main winner" in the P.A.'s latest push for reconciliation.
Nasrallah Threatens Israel
Meanwhile in Lebanon, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, speaking by teleconferencing to a rally in Beirut, said the Netanyahu government "is leading its people to death and destruction."
Nasrallah rarely appears in public, preferring to speak from the safety of an underground bunker. Hamas leaders used similar tactics in past military confrontations with Israel.
"Netanyahu and his government don't know if they have started a war and how to finish it," Nasrallah said from his hideout. "They have no true picture. If they did, they wouldn't proceed to this folly of war."
But Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant said Israel will "take off the kid gloves" in the next confrontation with Hezbollah.
"Nasrallah speaks from his bunker with good reason," Galant said. "If he makes a mistake and starts a war, we will throw Lebanon back into the Stone Age."