On Thursday, October 12th the two largest Palestinian political movements, Fatah and Hamas, signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo. The goal is to return power in the besieged Gaza Strip to the Palestinian National Authority, currently led by Fatah and based in Ramallah.
Under the deal brokered by Egypt, the Palestinian consensus government under Fatah will have full control of the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas since 2007, by December 1st.
Although the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank were not extremely enthusiastic in the weeks preceding the agreement, there is now a lot of optimism, most notably among trade and commercial circles.
For instance, Mohammed Hirbawi, head of the Hebron chamber of commerce and industry said the division had decreased the movement between the West Bank and Gaza to its lowest levels in addition to the security obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupation, which resulted in a rise in transport expenses. He explained to Al Quds newspaper that the cost of a shipping truck for goods from Hebron to Gaza costs around NIS500 while from Israel to Gaza it is much less because the goods would have to go through Israel and not directly from the West Bank to the Strip.
A lot of Palestinians also expressed their desires to go visit the other part of Palestinian territories they have been isolated from over the past 10 years. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas himself has not been in Gaza since 2007.
Hopes are also high for Gazans to benefit from the reconciliation and live a better life. According to a poll conducted this summer by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 47% of the surveyed Palestinians believed that conditions in the Gaza Strip would improve if Hamas accepted PA and Abbas conditions for reconciliation. The Gaza Strip has been suffering from the Israeli blockade since June 2006, as well as the almost permanent closure of its border with Egypt after 2014, and the sanctions imposed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The water is heavily polluted, and people have started to develop infections due to the lack of clean and desalinated water. A child even died this summer from an infection he got from swimming in the sea where sewage water ends. Unemployment reached levels it had not reached since the aftermath of last war between Hamas and Israel. Electricity is maybe the worst: people now live with about 4 hours of power each day.
Various issues were dealt with in the agreement signed in Cairo. Responsibility of the border crossings is to be transferred to the Palestinian government. The Presidential guards, supervised by the European Union border agency (EUBAM), will run the Rafah crossing, on the border with Egypt.
Regarding security, about 3,000 security officers from the Palestinian authority are to join the Gaza police force.
A unified government is to be formed in November during new meetings in Cairo, where all movements that are members of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) will be invited.
The future of the armed resistance, as well as the public servants connected to one or the other movements (Fatah or Hamas) is to be discussed to this meeting as well.
In Israel, reactions were not so supportive. On Tuesday, the authorities said in the statement that they would acknowledge the agreement reached by the Fatah party and Hamas “only under certain conditions.” Shortly after, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spokesman responded by saying that no Israeli position would change the official Palestinian position, and that reconciliation was the ultimate goal.
Hamas also answered on Wednesday that the Israeli government wants to “sabotage the Palestinian reconciliation and keep the Palestinian people divided.”