A Fatah delegation headed by senior officials Azzam al-Ahmed and Hussein al-Sheikh arrived Sept. 16 in Cairo to discuss ways to structure a Palestinian reconciliation with Hamas. The delegation returned to Ramallah pessimistic. Several hours after they delivered their gloomy assessment to Palestinian President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas regarding Hamas’ intentions to advance reconciliation and dialogue, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh contacted Abbas by phone.
The two leaders of the rival Palestinian factions have been estranged for several years. They last spoke by phone six years ago, in 2011, when Haniyeh called Abbas to express his condolences upon the death of Abbas' brother. About a year ago, in October 2016, Haniyeh, Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, Haniyeh's predecessor, met in Qatar in what Abbas’ office described as a “random encounter.’’ They exchanged a few polite words and spoke of their desire for reconciliation. Nothing more happened after that.