Expectations Low for Reconciliation Of Hamas and Fatah

Mohammad Yunus writes that a long-discussed Hamas-Fatah reconciliation meeting is being planned, even though the differences between the groups loom large.

al-monitor Fatah movement activists wave upon arriving at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, Dec. 3, 2012. The Islamist Hamas group allowed the 10 activists of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, who fled Gaza into Egypt in 2007 during internal fighting between the two political rivals, to return home in what the group said was a sign of rapprochement, according to a Hamas official. Photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

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palestinian-israeli conflict, palestinian, plo, hamas, gaza, fatah

Dec 7, 2012

Leaders of Palestinian factions are preparing to convene a meeting soon between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) interim leadership and leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in the Egyptian capital.

The meeting aims to resume reconciliation efforts, but expectations about its success are modest.

According to Azzam al-Ahmad, the leading Fatah official in charge of reconciliation issues, the executive committee will soon specify a date for the meeting, saying that it will likely be held at the end of next week.

Fatah and Hamas came closer during the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, and during the submission of a request for upgraded status for Palestine in the United Nations. Still, significant gaps lie between them when it comes to political partnership for the future.

President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the first step towards reconciliation would be to conduct presidential and parliamentary elections. However, Hamas believes that the elections will come as a result of reconciliation, instead of being a driving force behind it. 

Hamas officials told Al-Hayat that reconciliation will begin with a rebuilding of the PLO and the establishment of a national partnership — not with elections. They noted that the Israeli side controls the electoral process in the West Bank through continued arrests of the movement’s leaders, members and cadres.

A senior official in the movement said: “The elections don’t create reconciliation, but instead create division.” He noted that the [Palestinian] division happened after the 2006 election, in which Hamas won and Fatah put obstacles on its way to power. “This led to the eruption of a power struggle," he said.

Hamas believes that priority should be given to rebuilding a partnership in the PLO and forming a national unity government. Fatah opposes this and believes that the chief priority should be to hold a general election.

Observers believe that the two sides are not yet ready for a political partnership that would end the division, due to the difference in their priorities. President Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for a political initiative by US President Barack Obama to revive the political process. Such an initiative is expected to be made after the Israeli elections next month and the formation of a new government.

Hamas is looking to consolidate its power in the Gaza Strip after it withstood the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. Hamas believes that any reconciliation and partnership between the two parties must be based on a new resistance program, not a peaceful one.

Prominent Hamas leader Mohammed al-Zahar said in a speech at a festival in Gaza yesterday [Dec. 5]: “We reach out to our brothers in Fatah to achieve reconciliation on the basis of a resistance program.”

He added, “I say to the supporters of Fatah: Those who want to join the course of the victors, those who want to celebrate and feel honorable, and those who want to carry the gun, our hands are stretched out to you [based] on a resistance program and the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine. To those who want to maneuver: We know our way to Jerusalem.”

Zahar called on the Fatah leaders to abandon what he called “the illusion of negotiations.”

Mutual criticism resurfaced in the communication between the two groups. Hamas issued yesterday a report saying that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is continuing to arrest and summon Hamas militants.

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