Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal on Thursday during talks in Cairo, local media has reported. Reports of the agreement lack specific details on what exactly was agreed upon, with Fatah only officially confirming it will take over control of the Gaza-Egypt border.
The agreement also reportedly stipulates that legislative, presidential and national elections will be held within the next twelve months, but such reports have not been officially confirmed.
In 2011, a unity agreement that was signed, but unity never came to fruition.
Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian political scientist at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank told Mondoweiss that he believes Thursday’s agreement was likely made using broad wording without concrete resolutions on how the two parties will move forward, much like the agreement that was signed six years ago.
“My guess is that they did not agree on anything except the scope of how Hamdallah’s government will come into play in Gaza,” Khatib said, referring the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. “The agreement probably includes vague language, I don’t think they agreed on other real topics, because both sides cannot afford to come to any agreement concerning how to move forward in terms of politics, security and election issues.”
Khatib said the two parties currently “seem to be going into a gradual approach, starting with the possible and leaving the impossible for later.”
The impossible, according to Khatib, includes finding new funding to finance the PA’s additional responsibilities in Gaza, as well as sharing control in a meaningful way, without the shadow government that currently unofficially rules the Gaza Strip getting in the way (ahead of unity talks Hamas disbanded the official “Administrative Committee” that on paper ruled over the Strip, but the committee never held real power on the ground).
“I see two main obstacles stopping the Hamdallah government from doing its duties in Gaza, the first is funds — with this ‘hot potato’ thrown into the lap of Hamdallah, he is going to need more funding and I don’t expect the international community or the Arab community to cover these additional needs,” he explained. “Second, is dealing with a dual authority when Hamdallah’s government will function, there will continue to be a Hamas shadow government at play.”
“These two obstacles make this whole mission impossible,” he said.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who heads the PA’s cabinet, joined the delegation to Cairo, while it was announced that PA President Mahmoud Abbas plans to visit the Strip in the coming month — the first of such visits since Hamas took control of Gaza ten years ago. While Hamdallah manages the daily activities of the government and its ministries, the presidency heads the executive structure within the PA.
Moving forward, Hamas’s military wing, which it has consistently refused to dismantle, will also be a breaking point if the Hamas party does not make the very unlikely move of agreeing to get rid of its arms.
With the PA highly dependent on foreign funds and Israel’s permission to function, the PA cannot agree to allow the Hamas movement to continue on with its armed wing under PA government rule, as Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union.
So far, it does not seem like a “full agreement” could have been achieved in the two-day meeting, but officials have denied Mondoweiss’s request for comment.
The New York Times reported the PA will “lift a series of punitive sanctions that it imposed on Hamas-controlled Gaza earlier this year,” without specifying which sanctions in particular the government agreed to lift.
In addition, the AFP reported that an anonymous member of the negotiating team said the deal includes the deployment of 3,000 PA police officers, which will join Gaza’s 20,000 strong police force employed by Hamas.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah party, told AFP that he “welcomed” the deal, which he considers to be “the final agreement to end the division,” despite many failed attempts in the past.
PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi in a press release called the agreement “an expression of firm commitment,” that will “bring about genuine reconciliation and national unity in Palestine.”
Meanwhile, the Hamas movement tweeted that the agreement was “a step forward” and that the Hamdallah government will “start being active in Gaza,” but gave no further details of the agreement.
Khatib seems less optimistic, explaining that he believes today’s agreement is just one corner of a foundation, but without dealing with other thornier issues, the whole thing will soon come crumbling down.
“Inviting the PA to work in Gaza without a full agreement, is nothing more than a trap,” Khatib said. “But we shall see.”
The power shift is set to take place by Dec. 1.
Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas won in parliamentary elections. The Fatah party refused to recognize Hamas’s victory, leading Hamas to violently push Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, leaving Hamas to govern Gaza, while Fatah rules over the occupied West Bank.
After Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the small territory, home to nearly two million people without freedom of movement and devastating the population, which lacks adequate food, water, electricity and medicine among other necessities