Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Inter-Palestinian breakthrough

Cairo’s efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions finally bear fruit, writes Ahmed Eleiba


Inter-Palestinian breakthrough
Inter-Palestinian breakthrough

Fatah and Hamas agreed this week to end the decade long inter-Palestinian rift which began when Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. The move marks a major step towards implementing the provisions of the Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement (PRA) signed in Cairo in 2011.

On Sunday Hamas issued a four-point statement: it agreed to dissolve the administrative committee formed in March to govern Gaza and expressed a desire to begin negotiations with Fatah to form a national unity government; it invited the Palestinian national reconciliation government to resume its duties in Gaza “immediately”; it agreed to hold general elections and declared its readiness to respond to Egyptian calls to begin talks with Fatah on implementing the 2011 PRA and its annexes. 

The Hamas decision was not made in a vacuum. For 10 days Cairo had hosted a series of meetings, beginning with Hamas which sent a delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh. On Friday a Fatah delegation arrived headed by Azzam Al-Ahmed. The meetings with the two movements produced a set of arrangements designed to end the 10-year-long Palestinian schism.

A source close to the talks in Cairo told Al-Ahram Weekly an Egyptian delegation, including security officials, would soon head to Gaza to follow through on the steps needed to implement the agreement and ensure the effective return of the national reconciliation government.

President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been following the talks from New York where he is attending the UN General Assembly, welcomed the steps and it has been announced the Fatah central committee will schedule a meeting to determine the procedures necessary for the Palestinian Authority to resume its duties in Gaza until legislative and presidential elections can be held.

Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Aita told the Weekly “a date for the central committee meeting to determine what steps to take next” will be set as soon as Abbas returns from New York.

“The most important processes ahead are the legislative and presidential elections. Once we know the results of the elections, things will be clearer,” added Abu Aita.

Azzam Al-Ahmed told the Palestinian News Agency Wafa that a bilateral meeting is being arranged between Fatah and Hamas to be followed by a meeting of all the Palestinian factions that signed the 2011 PRA.

“These steps will strengthen Palestinian unity and end divisions,” he said. “They will allow the National Reconciliation Government to resume its work in Gaza and pursue efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people there and end the unjust blockade.”

Al-Ahmed said he had spoken with Hamas Political Bureau chief Haniyeh in Cairo. “I sensed a sincere desire for reconciliation,” said Al-Ahmed.

“We do not need more dialogues and agreements. Everything needed to end the divisions is in the 2011 Cairo agreement. And on the Palestinian, and the wider Arab level, it is understood that Cairo must be responsible for supervising the implementation of the agreement.”

“Now that Hamas has responded to Egyptian efforts and taken the decision to dissolve the administrative committee PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement must ensure the reconciliation government can assume its duties and responsibilities in Gaza immediately. Abbas must also quickly rescind all the punitive measures he has taken against our people in Gaza,” says Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

In the last five months Abbas has cut off payments for electricity to Gaza, reduced medical supplies and announced the early retirement of more than 6,000 PA workers.

“We want to see whether Hamas really dissolves the administrative committee before anything else,” says Fatah spokesman Abu Aita.” Once the reconciliation government is actually in place, he added, “it will work to alleviate the suffering of the people. Egypt will reopen the crossing in a regular and legitimate way and the electricity crisis will be solved”.

“All that is needed is a strong government.”

“Hamas is facing internal pressure but this is not the main reason it is seeking to resolve its differences with Fatah,” says Sobhi Asila, an expert on Palestinian affairs at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “Regional and international factors are having a far greater impact.”

Immediately after Hamas announced its four-point pledge Palestinian factions met in Gaza to hail the beginning of a new phase. In a joint press release the factions expressed gratitude for Egyptian efforts in promoting Palestinian reconciliation and praised Cairo’s dedication to restoring Palestinian unity.

The Palestinian factions called on Fatah and Palestinian President Abbas to seize the opportunity presented by the initiative and respond with practical steps, including the immediate end of all punitive measures taken against the people of Gaza.

“The Hamas decision to dissolve the administrative committee is a positive step and PA President Mahmoud Abbas should reciprocate by revoking his punitive measures against Gaza,” said Rabah Muhanna, a member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The PFLP described the Hamas initiative as “a courageous affirmation of the movement’s commitment to end the divisions and give priority to the general welfare of Gaza’s inhabitants”.

Mustafa Al-Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, stated that the Hamas pledge to dissolve the administrative committee paved the way to a comprehensive national dialogue. He, too, urged the PA government to revoke its recent punitive measures.

Onetime Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan, founder of the Reform Wing of the Fatah Movement, welcomed the Hamas decision.

“This step has pulled the rug from beneath any pretexts Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might have used to stall on reconciliation,” he said.

Abu Aita dismissed any suggestion Dahlan is a party to the agreement.

“This agreement was signed between Fatah and Hamas and its guarantor is Egypt which supervised the drafting of its articles. The dealings will essentially be between the two movements, excluding other parties,” he said.

Hamas had announced its intention to dissolve the administrative committee in talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week, says an informed source. When the Fatah delegation, headed by Al-Ahmed, arrived in Cairo, it insisted the intention be made public.

Abu Aita recognises that there will be obstacles during the implementation at which point, he says, it will be necessary to turn to Cairo as the sponsor of the agreement.

In an official statement Cairo welcomed the positive response from both Fatah and Hamas for its mediation, adding that Egypt would continue to communicate with Palestinian President Abbas and all Palestinian political forces in a manner that serves the general welfare of the Palestinian people.

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