WASHINGTON, Aug 24—The widening division between Fatah and Hamas threatens any chance for a diplomatic breakthrough on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Neither Palestinian faction is moving closer to reconciliation with or capitulation to the other side, concludes a new commentary from Nathan J. Brown.

Security and economic gains in the West Bank are temporary and unsustainable—and unlikely to inspire a broader Palestinian rejection of Hamas. Recent championing of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s efficient governance style as a new model for democracy in the region ignores the inherent shortcomings of governing only half of the Palestinian Authority.

Key Conclusions:

  • Fayyad’s achievements are dependent on massive international assistance and an unpopular crackdown on Hamas, which has further aggravated the discord within Palestine.
  • Fatah leaders have no plan to move past the current stalemate and are focused on outmaneuvering each other.
  • Hamas leaders have transformed their movement into a party-state after seizing Gaza in 2007, but have failed to articulate any strategy to expand beyond their entrenchment there and govern a united Palestine.
  • Hamas is starting to resemble Fatah in the 1990s, a party that systemically captures a weak proto-state. But it has managed to avoid so far the extreme disarray and corruption that beset Fatah.
  • The United States has locked itself in a policy of sanctions against Hamas that are unlikely to produce desired results.

Brown concludes:

“The grim reality is that the Palestinians now have two political systems that are lurching farther away from each other, and neither one seems to have a viable strategy for realizing its vision or building a better future for the people it purports to lead.”



  • Nathan J. Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a distinguished scholar and author of four well-received books on Arab politics.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world to provide analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region.
  • Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin offers a monthly analysis of political and economic developments in Arab countries.