Reconciliation Depends on Hamas, Says Fatah Official

In an interview with Al-Hayat, senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, who is responsible for dealing with Hamas, says that reconciliation depends first on Hamas arranging its own internal affairs. 

al-monitor Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah leader, leaves the headquarters of Yemen's Foreign Ministry in Sanaa March 22, 2008. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi.

Topics covered

palestinian authority, palestinian, hamas, fatah-hamas reconciliation, fatah

Dec 21, 2012

Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee in charge of reconciliation affairs, said that the upcoming visit of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani to Ramallah carries “positive” signs, and will convey “a clear message that Qatar supports reconciliation rather than division in the Palestinian ranks.” He noted that the reconciliation is pending Hamas’ finalization of arranging its internal affairs.

In an interview with Al-Hayat on the sidelines of a conference titled “Centers for Political and Strategic Studies in the Arab World,” Ahmad attributed the delay in holding reconciliation meetings between Fatah and Hamas during the recent period to “Hamas’ preoccupation with arranging its internal affairs and the current events in Egypt.” He stressed the importance of holding the meetings in Cairo and said, “If Hamas finishes arranging its internal issues, we will excuse the Egyptians if their situation does not allow for holding a meeting under their sponsorship, and will accelerate the convening of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation committee.”

Ahmad said that “Palestinian Authoirty President Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Qatar a few days ago, discussed the reconciliation with the emir of Qatar.

“The upcoming visit of the emir of Qatar to Ramallah will be a positive element in the reconciliation efforts. This topic will certainly be on the agenda of talks with Abbas, because we believe that the Doha Declaration has eliminated a contentious issue regarding the reconciliation, which is how to initiate practical steps,” he added.

Ahmad noted that the Qatari emir’s visit “has great significance, especially since some sought to employ Sheikh Hamad's visit to Gaza to deepen the division, rather than to end it. One of the positive points of the visit is that it conveys a clear message that Qatar supports reconciliation rather than division in the Palestinian ranks.

We appreciated the emir's speech in Gaza, especially when he called for the implementation of the reconciliation agreement,” he added.

Ahmad said that “the reconciliation process has been on hold since July 3, when Hamas banned the Central Election Commission from completing its work in Gaza. Everything stopped as a result. But the aggression on Gaza created common national feelings and sentiment among Palestinians wherever they are — in Gaza, Jerusalem, the 1948 lands, Shatila [refugee camp in Beirut] and other places. These feelings did not exist previously. A week after the Gaza offensive, a United Nations resolution was issued accepting Palestine as an observer member in the international organization. This further roused the people’s emotions. Supporters of Fatah, Hamas and all the factions took to the streets of Gaza and Ramallah [in celebration]. The incident united the people without orders from their leaders.”

Ahmad said that “under these circumstances, communications intensified among the Palestinian leaderships, between Fatah and Hamas, namely between President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Hamas Political Bureau Chief [Khaled] Meshaal. At the meeting of the Palestinian leadership headed by Abbas in Ramallah, a decision was made to resume efforts to implement the reconciliation agreement. Thus, a decision was issued to call for a meeting of the committee for the activation and development of the Palestinian Liberation Organization when Abbas returns from the UN. But the committee did not convene because Hamas was busy with the celebrations in Gaza, especially given that most of its leaders had entered the Gaza Strip, including Meshaal.”

He added: “We viewed Meshaal’s visit to Gaza positively. We hope that Hamas will finalize arranging its internal affairs, that the Shura Council will convene and a new political bureau chief will be announced.”

He said, "Following Meshaal’s visit to Gaza, I met with him in Cairo and Doha. Communications are in full swing between us and the leaders of Hamas. However, it seems that Hamas has yet to finalize its internal affairs. This poses a problem, as I had previously agreed with Moussa Abu Marzouk — who headed Hamas’ delegation in the reconciliation meetings — in the presence of some Egyptian leaders in Cairo, that the best time for the meeting is when Hamas finalizes its internal arrangements."

He also pointed to another reason for deferring the Palestinian reconciliation meetings. He said that Egypt is busy with its domestic affairs. "Egypt is sponsoring the reconciliation. However, circumstances led to the eruption of problems on its domestic landscape [...] Egypt must be calm in order to host the meetings of the Reconciliation Committee. We are waiting for Hamas to finalize its internal arrangements and for Egypt to be ready to embrace the reconciliation meetings," he said.

"If the situation in Egypt were to drag on for a long period of time, but Hamas finalizes its own arrangements, then we will be immediately ready to hold a meeting. While we prefer for it to be held in Cairo, if the situation in Egypt does not seem to have an end in sight, it is possible to hold the meeting elsewhere, especially given that no one other than Palestinians will attend, not even the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The meeting is an internal affair of the Reconciliation Committee. It will be headed by President Abbas, as the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and will include members of the organizations' executive committee, the general secretaries of the factions — including Meshaal and Ramadan Shallah [of the Islamic Jihad] — in addition to independent figures."

Moreover, Ahmad added, "Should Hamas manage to arrange its internal affairs, we will excuse the Egyptians if their domestic situation remains dire, and hold the meeting elsewhere."

Ahmad hoped that Hamas will not take too long to finish its internal business, saying that "Hamas plans to resolve its internal issues by the end of the month. However, we are concerned about some negative statements that have re-emerged on the part of certain Hamas leaders in Gaza. It is well known that some of these leaders have abandoned the Doha Declaration concerning the reconciliation, and continue to take offensive stances regarding reconciliation.

"Today, Hamas enjoys absolute freedom in the West Bank. The group has held ceremonies and marches in all cities. However, when Fatah began its preparations to hold celebrations in January on the occasion of the start of the Palestinian revolution, Hamas began to place obstacles in Gaza after having previously agreed to these celebrations. It seems Hamas seeks to control the meeting venue so it remains constrained," he said.

Finally, Ahmad added, "These behaviors are negative, and I do not want to address their details. I only hope that these negative statements and behaviors will not affect the prevailing positive atmosphere, which we are keen to preserve."

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