Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have signed a preliminary reconciliation deal, bringing hope for an end to a decades-long rift and potential restart of the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Both sides agreed to implement a unity pact signed in 2011 but never enacted. It called for the formation of a government of national accord and Hamas handing over administrative control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by December 1.
“We also agreed that the presidential guard [of the PA] will take control of Gaza’s crossings with Israel on November 1,” said the head of the Fatah delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, during a news conference in Cairo.
The PA will also take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which is the Palestinian coastal enclave’s only gateway to the outside world.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the reconciliation, describing it as “the final agreement to end the division,” as aides made plans for him to visit Gaza for the first time since 2007.
Egypt played a pivotal role in getting the rival Palestinian factions into negotiations, hoping that intra-Palestinian reconciliation could restart the Palestinian- Israeli peace process.
However, Israel has said it would not accept an agreement that did not include Hamas recognising Israel and agreeing to give up its weapons.
Tel Aviv wants disunity between Palestinian political parties at all costs; it needs them to be at odds.
“The fact is that Israel wants Hamas to be militarily defanged,” said Saad al-Zunt, the head of Egyptian think-tank the Political and Strategic Studies Centre. “This is why it was closely watching the reconciliation talks.”
Speaking during the negotiations, Fatah leader Gehad al-Hazarin told the media that the Palestinian Authority would be clear on who would be allowed to carry arms in Gaza.
“We also want to be clear on who should make decisions when it comes to war and peace,” Hazarin said.
There was no direct reference to Hamas’s arms during the October 12 news conference but Ahmad confirmed that Hamas and Fatah representatives would return — along with representatives of other Palestinian factions — on November 21 for further discussions in Cairo and to give the agreement their blessing.
Ahmad said the issue of payment for tens of thousands of Gazan civil servants would be discussed when Hamas and Fatah delegations meet again.
Deputy Hamas leader Saleh al- Aroui said the Fatah and Hamas delegates did not discuss any new deals because the 2011 national reconciliation agreement already covered all issues. It specifies a series of security and administrative measures for ending the rift between Fatah and Hamas.
“Our discussions this time focused on opening the door for the Palestinian government to assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Aroui said. “We also agreed to remove all hindrances in the way of this government.”
This article first appeared in The Arab Weekly
An independent analyst told The Middle East magazine Online: What Israel thinks about the terms of this deal is at this stage, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant. Tel Aviv wants disunity between Palestinian political parties at all costs; it needs them to be at odds. While the Palestinians are feuding with each 0ther, Israel works to further its own position. If and when the Palestinians begin to present a united front to Israel and the world, they will see their power and their influence grow exponentially.