Tuesday,26 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Tuesday,26 March, 2019
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

After Palestinian unity

Fatah and Hamas delegations launched an intensive round of negotiations in Cairo Tuesday, 10 October, in order to implement the agreement mediated by Egypt with the aim of restoring unity to the Palestinian struggle in the West Bank and Gaza, and hopefully improving the chances of reaching a peace agreement with Israel that would lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The existence of two leaderships for the Palestinian people — one in Ramallah led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the second in Gaza led by the Islamist Hamas movement — dealt a devastating blow to the cause of the Palestinian people and allowed Israel to find one more reason to disregard its long unfulfilled international obligations, including ending its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and allowing for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

With the entire region in turmoil and the disintegration of several key Arab states such as Iraq, Syria and Libya, the Palestinian cause has been mostly ignored. This led to sharp deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people, especially in the narrow Gaza Strip where 2.5 million people live, and gave Israel a chance to expand tremendously its settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As Egypt has considered for decades resolution of the Palestinian cause a matter of national security, it spared no effort in trying to reach reconciliation among the Palestinian political factions, especially after an unprecedented level of deterioration was reached with the creation of a separate Hamas government in Gaza.

There were several failures in the past since Hamas ousted Fatah officials in Gaza in 2007, refusing to recognise the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas in Ramallah. Nevertheless, Egypt always believed that there was no alternative but to keep trying.

Considering the situation in North Sinai, where Egyptian Armed Forces have been fighting against terrorist groups for the past four years, maintaining security and stability in Gaza is a top priority. Egypt’s government has agreed to overcome its past disputes with Hamas, known for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood group, on condition that the latter would not allow Gaza to become a safe haven for terrorists who target the Egyptian army in North Sinai.

Equally important, Cairo was never content with the increased suffering of the Palestinian people squeezed inside Gaza, with no ability to move in and out of the Strip, and little goods and electricity getting in. However, Egypt also has its own international obligations, with the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas, Israel and the United States.

Therefore, if the interests of the Palestinian people were the prime concern for Hamas and its supporters, they would have to reach a compromise with Fatah that would end their split and help ease the suffering of Gaza’s population.

Many challenges lie ahead such as the future of 45,000 Hamas employees in Gaza, and who will be in charge of security in Gaza, with the presence of tens of thousands of fighters who belong to Hamas’ military wing and other Palestinian factions.

Egypt has invested time and effort to convince Hamas to dissolve the Administrative Committee, its de facto government in Gaza, and has shown a willingness to send an Egyptian security delegation to monitor implementation of the understanding, key to its future success.

Now it is the turn of Palestinian leaders to reach genuine compromise. Only this would allow concerned parties to revive peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, including the US administration that has expressed interest in brokering a deal.

Meanwhile, the international community should pressure the right-wing Israeli government to meet its commitments, according to agreements signed with the Palestinians and UN Security Council resolutions. Building more illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and provoking Palestinians by seeking to further control religious holy sites such as Al-Aqsa Mosque, are the decisive reasons behind delaying genuine peace in the region, and not only Palestinian splits.

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