Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Palestinian unity

Ahmed Eleiba reports on the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza    


Fawzi (left) and Al-Hamdallah during their meeting in Gaza  on Tuesday (photo: AP)
Fawzi (left) and Al-Hamdallah during their meeting in Gaza on Tuesday (photo: AP)

A celebratory atmosphere prevailed in Gaza for Monday’s arrival of the Palestinian national consensus government headed by Rami Al-Hamdallah. Heavy security measures were in place to ensure the smooth running of the handover.

Al-Hamdallah takes over from the disbanded Hamas administration. Under the deal which Cairo sponsored Fatah and Hamas agreed to dissolve the Hamas administrative committee that had been running Gaza and replace it with a national consensus government.

Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since 2007.

Before the handover ceremonies Fatah and Hamas reached agreement on the mandates of the joint committees which will implement the practical aspects of the Palestinian Authority’s resumption of authority in Gaza.

A billboard with a picture of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the caption “Egypt will never tire or weary until it sees the Palestinian people in the best condition — Long live Egypt!” greeted the arrival of an Egyptian delegation from the General Intelligence headed by Minister Khaled Fawzi. The General Intelligence was instrumental in brokering the agreement between the Palestinian factions and will follow through on the implementation of its provisions.

Palestinian sources told Al-Ahram Weekly that the security delegation had arrived early in Gaza to help facilitate the arrangements for Hamas’ handover to the national consensus government.

Fawzi had earlier visited Ramallah where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Palestinian Intelligence Agency Major General Maged Farag. When he arrived to Gaza, he took part in the first meeting held by the consensus government. “President Al-Sisi has issued directives for those in charge of the reconciliation file to exert their utmost effort to reunite Palestinians,” Fawzi said adding that Egypt’s leadership will continue its efforts towards the success of reconciliation.

Prime Minister Al-Hamdallah said the government had begun working the moment he entered Gaza. From now on all Palestinians must devote their efforts to the reconstruction in Gaza, he said in his speech at the welcome ceremony.

Al-Hamdallah paid a symbolic visit to Shujaya, the Gaza city neighbourhood destroyed in the last Israeli war against Gaza, where he delivered a speech praising Egypt’s role as sponsor and guarantor of the reconciliation.

The Palestinian prime minister said the government had already formed committees to oversee the administration of Gaza and, in accordance with the Cairo agreement, would address the question of civil servants’ salaries. He described Hamas’ decision to respond to President Mahmoud Abbas’ call to dissolve its Administrative Committee as “an important step”, adding he was confident understanding would prevail.

He appealed to Palestinians to unify their ranks for the sake of the higher national interests and the welfare of the people the alleviation of whose sufferings, he said, must be the top priority. He told the audience the government has already taken steps in this direction and had called on the international community to support the reconstruction of Gaza.

“The road ahead will be long and hard,” said Al-Hamdallah. “There can be no Palestinian state without Gaza and without Jerusalem as its capital.”

According to Fatah Central Committee member Mohamed Shtaya, the reconciliation process will be carried out in three phases. The first involves the dissolution of Hamas’ Administrative Committee, formed six months ago to govern Gaza, the national consensus government’s resumption of responsibilities in Gaza and preparations for general and presidential elections. 

Azzam Al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah delegation in the recent talks in Cairo, says Fatah is moving towards national reconciliation and will not allow any backsliding. “The effects of division cannot be eliminated overnight,” he told journalists, “but they can be remedied gradually until they are eliminated.”

Speaking from Ramallah, Fatah Central Committee member Dalal Salama told the Weekly the Palestinian government’s resumption of its functions in Gaza marked “an important day”.

“The national consensus government has assumed its duties. It is back in Gaza, complete with all its political and security bodies.”

“The Palestinian people have been longing for this day,” she said. “The legitimate government has already begun to assume control of ministries, beginning last Sunday with the Ministry of Culture. On Tuesday the first official meetings convened and the Palestinian flag has been raised on the presidential residence in Gaza.”

Measures to rebuild Palestinian unity are “moving forward”, said Salama.

“Eventually the problems of the crossings, civil servants and all other outstanding issues will be resolved. Work has already begun on them in accordance with the reconciliation principles that were agreed on in Cairo.”

“Egypt’s General Intelligence, through hard work and responsible dialogue with Hamas and through its communications with Abu Mazen, succeeded in concluding the agreement. Egypt’s powerful constructive role will continue until Palestinian general elections are held.”

Egypt was so suited for this role, said Salama, “because of its regional weight and historic commitment to the Palestinian cause”.

“Cairo understands the threats to the region and realises the importance of Palestinian unity and solidarity in confronting the dangers posed by the Zionist project. Unity and solidarity are essential to restore the rights of the Palestinian people.”

She also noted the reconciliation process has important implications for Egypt’s own stability.

Speaking at a meeting with young Gazans last week Yehia Senwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, vowed to “break the neck of any Hamas member who rejects reconciliation”. He said Hamas was ready to more concessions to end the Palestinian rift.

“Each concession will be greater than the last. The result will be one of two things — either end of the rift, which is the least we can achieve, or national reconciliation, which is the best. Then we will be able to devote ourselves to our national liberation project.”

Senwar said Hamas’ most important priority is to work to advance the Palestinian national project. “Hamas does not want a war. It seeks to be open to all Arab and regional states. The only veto in international relations is with Israel.” 

Senwar revealed Hamas has agreed to an Egyptian initiative proposing a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. He said the Israeli government had been informed of this decision. “The ball is now in the Israeli court,” he said.

Senwar gave no details of the proposed swap which Israel has reportedly snubbed. Israeli news reports claim it involves Israel initially handing over 39 bodies in exchange for information on the fate of Israeli soldiers missing in action and presumed to be held by Hamas. Later phases would include exchanges of prisoners.

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