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Hamas and Fatah sign unity deal, but details remain unclear

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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.

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh watches a TV broadcast of a deal signing between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo, at his office in Gaza City October 12, 2017. (Photo: Yasser Qudih/APA Images)

“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.

Palestinians wave the flags of Egypt, Palestine, Fatah and Hamas as they gather in Gaza City to celebrate after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt on October 12, 2017. (Photo: Mohammed Asad/ APA Images)

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

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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9 Responses

  1. Citizen on October 13, 2017, 3:11 am

    Seems, in view of the fact Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union, this unity transaction is a farce, destined to go nowhere.

  2. Kay24 on October 13, 2017, 7:15 am

    The corrupt leader of Israel at one time said Israel could not negotiate for peace because the various factions in Palestine were not united etc. Now that they have wisely decided to unite, the greedy zionist king finds it will make peace “harder” to achieve. He is insulting the intelligence of the world, by coming up with these BS excuses. Go have some pink champagne Nutty.

    • eljay on October 13, 2017, 9:09 am

      The only Palestinians Zionists seem to approve of are the ones who agree to be subjugated, cleansed or killed, because the remainder – the ones who demand justice, accountability and equality – are obviously Jew-hating anti-Semites who threaten the Zionist wet-dream of Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      • MHughes976 on October 14, 2017, 12:52 pm

        Maybe the goal of ‘as much of Palestine is possible’ is getting closer, with Hamas in effect renouncing independent action and clearing the way for a 2ss in Israel-dictated form, since it has long seemed likely that Abbas would sign anything put in front of him. Or maybe there will be no 2ss even when the opportunity to dictate terms is available. Either way, another Israeli triumph? Yet another.

      • jon s on October 14, 2017, 4:39 pm

        Are you saying that the PA-Hamas agreement is an Israeli triumph?
        You ought to notify the Israeli government, which has been bemoaning the agreement,especially since there seems to be no provision for disarming Hamas.
        (see the link provided by Ossinev, below)

    • Mayhem on October 14, 2017, 6:45 pm

      Didn’t you bother to read the text in the article: “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.”
      So there you have it – no change to the status quo.

      • Kay24 on October 15, 2017, 7:48 am

        It will be hard for anyone who has arms to get rid of it anyway, not with the huge looming threat next door, that has the latest ones from the US, and made at home. If my neighbor kept attacking my family, whenever they decide to mow the lawn, it would be best in my interest, to arm myself too. Any party that wants to hold on to the status quo, so that they can continue an occupation, and the greedy grabbing of land, will reject anything even reasonable, to keep doing so. The world knows this game that Israel plays, quite well, only some like the US keeps pretending they don’t.

    • MHughes976 on October 15, 2017, 12:38 pm

      I willingly concede your greater understanding of these things, jon – you’re a man on the spot. But from my distance it looks like Hamas, much the more hostile Palestinian force, has given up its freedom of action – would the Egyptians have patronised a deal which didn’t at least clip H’s wings severely? This does seem to me like a plus for Israel.

  3. Ossinev on October 14, 2017, 2:59 pm

    They say that every picture tells a story. and this one is a classic:

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