Wariness and hope greet Hamas-Fatah reconciliation

1) Times of Israel, includes text of reconciliation agreement; 2) Al Monitor, displays of popular support; 3) Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera, reads the signs for moving on v. signs of destructive moves.

People release pigeons during an event to show support for a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, in Gaza City, October 13, 2017. The number taking part in such events was small – Palestinians have become bored and cynical about such agreements [see item 2].Photo by Mohammed Salem/ Reuters

Translation of leaked Hamas-Fatah agreement

Full text of the accord signed last week contains six clauses agreed upon by the rival factions

By Dov Lieber, Times of Israel
15 October 2017

The reconciliation agreement signed on Thursday in Cairo by rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas was leaked by the Hamas-linked website Palinfo.

The agreement is meant to end ten years of Palestinian division and begin a process of forming a unity government.

Following is an English translation of the leaked Arabic agreement:

In the name of God the Merciful,

An agreement by the Fatah and Hamas movements to end Palestinian division:

Based on the importance of cementing the principle of national partnership and giving priority to the public interest to achieve the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people to end the division, to strengthen the national front and national unity, in order to fulfil the national project and end the occupation and establish a sovereign Palestinian state on all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees, with a full commitment to the Basic Law, to maintain a single democratic and pluralistic political system, with a peaceful transfer of power through elections, and the protection of independent national Palestinian decision-making and respect for the sovereignty of states, and to welcome all assistance to the Palestinian people for reconstruction and development through the Palestinian government.

Fatah and Hamas held a series of meetings on October 10-11, 2017, under Egyptian auspices in Cairo, to discuss the issues of national reconciliation. The two movements agreed on the following:

(1) Completing procedures to enable the National Reconciliation Government (the Palestinian Authority) to fully exercise its functions and carry out its responsibilities in Gaza as it does in the West Bank by December 1, 2017.

(2) For the legal/administrative committee formed by the National Reconciliation Government to quickly find a solution to the issue of Gaza’s [government] employees, before the 1st of February, 2018, with the participation of experts and specialists knowledgeable of the Gaza Strip. While the committee works, the government will pay employees their salaries as paid to them currently effective November 2017, once the government is able to carry out its administrative and financial powers, including tax collection.

(Hamas, after it took over the Gaza Strip in a violent conflict with Fatah in 2007, hired tens of thousands of new civil servants because the Palestinian Authority told its employees not to go to work. This clause attempts to resolve what will be done with the overlap of civil servants.)

(3) Completing the process of allowing the National Consensus Government to take over all crossings of the Gaza Strip, including enabling Palestinian Authority staff to manage these crossings in full by January 11, 2018.

(4) Leaders of the official security services operating in the State of Palestine will go to the Gaza Strip to discuss ways and mechanisms for rebuilding the security services with relevant parties.

(5) A meeting will be held in Cairo during the first week of December 2017 to assess what progress has been achieved regarding the agreed upon issues.

(6) A meeting will be held on November 14, 2017, for all Palestinian factions that signed the agreement on “Palestinian National Accord” on May 4, 2011, to discuss all the reconciliation items mentioned in the agreement.


Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Aruri (seated L) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. The deal is signed by the leader of the Fatah delegation Azzam al-Ahmad and Hamas deputy politburo chief Salah al-Arouri.Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP

The Egyptians, who facilitated the talks in Cairo, released a press statement after the agreement was signed.

That statement said the reconciliation talks were being carried out in accordance with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s hope “to achieve an independent Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital and a return for Palestinian refugees.”

Palestinians wave national and Egyptian flags in Gaza City to celebrate the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in Egypt on October 12, 2017. Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP

Palestinians keep wary eye on reconciliation agreement

Several Palestinian groups have taken to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza to pressure Hamas and Gaza to implement swiftly the recent reconciliation agreement in light of past failures

By Ahmad Abu Amer, Al Monitor
October 19, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian street is witnessing an escalating trade union movement with the aim of exerting pressure on both sides of the Palestinian division — Fatah and Hamas — to speed up the implementation of the e. Previous agreements have failed after their implementation stalled and the parties refused to make concessions.

The popular and trade union events — in which hundreds of Palestinians participated in different areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — began with the dialogue sessions that started in Cairo at the end of September. The organizers of these events confirmed in separate statements to Al-Monitor that they will resume their activities in the coming days to press for the speedy implementation of the agreement.

On Oct. 10, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) erected a tent in support of Palestinian reconciliation efforts, as participants hoped that the latest round of negotiations in Cairo, which subsequently culminated in an agreement, would be different from previous rounds of failed negotiations.

Ahmed Tannani, head of the PFLP’s Youth Movement, told Al-Monitor, “We took part in this tent and other events to pressure both sides of the Palestinian division … into reaching a final and irreversible agreement. [We seek] to prevent scenarios of previous agreements from rolling out and to allow Palestinian factions to devote themselves to confronting the Israeli occupation instead of getting carried away by internal differences.”

Tannani said the Palestinian youth in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are sick and tired of the state of division that has affected their future and deprived them of their basic rights due to the power conflict between Fatah and Hamas. The most important of these rights is the disruption of the student council elections in Gaza’s universities as well as the lack of job opportunities and development programmes.

He stressed that they will continue exerting pressure on both Fatah and Hamas through such activities so the two movements quickly and seriously implement the agreement reached in Cairo. He also hoped that the agreement would be fair to all segments of society and would not serve as a means for Hamas and Fatah to share power.

In the same context, the October Movement organized a series of events in several governorates of the Gaza Strip. The movement called on the factions participating in the Cairo talks to heed the voice of the street and swiftly implement the Cairo agreement in a bid to put an end to internal division.

Muthana al-Najjar, coordinator of the October Movement, told Al-Monitor, “As soon as the factions arrived in Cairo, we took several steps to pressure them into reaching an agreement. Now that the agreement has been signed, we will embark on the second stage of our actions, which is to increase the number of grass-roots participants in order to place further pressure on both sides of the divide to implement the agreement without letting any details hinder its implementation.”

In order to increase the number of participants, the movement plans on launching social media campaigns.

Najjar explained that they received several messages from the Egyptian authorities and Palestinian parties for the dialogue table in Cairo. These messages said, “Your voice will be heeded, and what was agreed upon is irreversible” — meaning, reconciliation will be fulfilled. Najjar was referring to phone calls with Egyptian officials that he did not name.

He added that the next phase will focus on supporting the government’s work in Gaza through voluntary activities and calling for the opening of the Rafah crossing for student and medical patient travels. This crossing was part of the agreement but still needs some arrangements with the Palestinian government and the Egyptian authorities due to the security situation in Sinai.

Jamal Zaqout, a member of the secretariat of the Patriots to End the Split rally [Facebook, in Arabic], told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian street activities should help parties end division. He added that the rally will resume its and communicate with the two parties to the division in a bid to monitor what has been achieved in the recently signed Cairo reconciliation agreement.

Youtube, in Arabic, no translation.

Zaqout stressed that the conditions previously set by Hamas and Fatah hampered the rapid and safe implementation of previous agreements. He also stressed the need to involve all Palestinian factions, as well as representatives of civil society organizations and trade unions, in resolving the differences threatening the Palestinian cause instead of having those divisive parties share power alone.

When asked about the Palestinian street’s ability to pressure both sides of the divide, Palestinian political analysts voiced diverging opinions.

Hani Habib, political analyst and contributor to the Palestinian al-Ayyam newspaper, told Al-Monitor that the recent escalating Palestinian popular action aims to convey a strong message to the two sides of the division, whereby the people will keep taking to the streets until there is an agreement to end more than ten years of division, which have affected the Palestinian cause and the lives of citizens.

it is unfortunate that the people’s opinion was previously met with neglect on the part of Hamas and Fatah

Habib said that the street movement, among other factors, contributed to the agreement in Cairo amid great Egyptian pressure on the Palestinians to turn the page of division. This came at a time when Hamas and Fatah were both convinced that ongoing division would cost them and the Palestinian cause more losses.

Habib further said it is unfortunate that the people’s opinion was previously met with neglect on the part of Hamas and Fatah. He pointed out that popular participation had been weak because citizens were busy making a living, but added that such participation is gradually increasing.

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that while popular movements are important to pressure both sides of the divide, they have not yet served their purpose in the case of Hamas and Fatah due to the weak participation of the masses who are bored of division.

Abu Saada said that Hamas has polling stations that can gauge the Palestinian public mood through social networking sites, and these are taken into consideration to see whether or not a step, such as internal reconciliation, should be taken.

Due to the difficult living conditions and the lack of the most basic elements of human life, Palestinian popular movements, albeit limited, are a matter of concern to the two parties to the division, especially in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Ahmad Abu Amer is a Palestinian writer and journalist who has worked for a number of local and international media outlets. He is co-author of a book on the Gaza blockade for the Turkish Anadolu Agency. He holds a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Gaza.

Will Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal succeed?

The two sides reached only a partial agreement in Cairo, addressing civil and administrative matters

By Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera
October 13, 2017

Nazareth – The announcement of an Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement between Fatahand Hamas on Thursday raised hopes that a decade of bitter feuding between the rival Palestinian factions may finally come to an end.

The early conclusion of the talks in Cairo hinted at how much pressure both sides were under to make progress.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed what he called a “declaration of the end to division”. He is expected to visit Gaza within the next month, for the first time since Hamas removed Fatah from the enclave in 2007.

However, the two sides reached only a partial agreement, addressing civil and administrative matters. Far more contentious issues – such as national elections, reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the status of Hamas’ armed wing – were set aside for consideration at the next meeting in late November.

Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority minister, said that after previous failed reconciliation efforts, the chances of success had been improved because both factions had accepted “a step-by-step approach”.

Most importantly, agreement was reached on allowing security forces under Abbas’ control to oversee the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. That should encourage Egypt to end its closure of the crossing, allowing goods and people to pass through and alleviating the enclave’s humanitarian crisis.

Gaza’s police force will be rebuilt to include 3,000 PA officers, and Hamas officials in Gaza are to be integrated into PA ministries. The sanctions imposed by Abbas since the spring to tightly limit the entry of fuel, cutting Gaza’s electricity supplies to a few hours a day, will end.

“The price of this kind of reconciliation-lite is affordable, even for Israel,” Khatib told Al Jazeera. “As long as reconciliation deals only with humanitarian and environmental problems, and with the provision of services and the salaries of employees, it can succeed.

“But the moment it addresses major security and political matters, it will fail.”

Egypt’s role has proved crucial. Mouin Rabbani, a Palestinian analyst based in Jordan, said Cairo had exploited the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as leverage to resolve its own security concerns in Sinai. “Egypt wanted to prevent ISIS from enjoying the benefits of a safe haven in Gaza,” he told Al Jazeera.

In addition, Cairo feared that, if the crisis continued, it might lead to another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, leaving Palestinians clamouring for entry into Sinai to escape the devastation. That risked shining a spotlight on Egyptian complicity with Israel in sustaining the siege of Gaza through its closure of the Rafah border crossing.

National elections

The US administration is reported to be eager to see the talks succeed too, as a way to sideline Hamas and improve the chances for President Donald Trump to sell his long-promised “ultimate” deal for peace. That is the one straw that Abbas, pursuing his diplomatic campaign for statehood, can still clutch at.

“Reconciliation is something everyone wants now,” Khatib said. “Abbas wants to extend his jurisdiction to Gaza. Hamas wants to be rid of the burden of the day-to-day governance of Gaza. The international donors want to be able to direct money into Gaza again.

“Even Israel has an interest in a solution to Gaza’s humanitarian problems. After all, Gaza’s untreated sewage ends up on Israeli beaches, too.”

But the wider issues of reconciliation are likely to prove harder to resolve.

Hundreds of PA officials from the occupied West Bank arrived in Gaza last week to start setting up a national consensus government.

This administration of technocrats is intended as a temporary measure until Palestinian elections can be arranged and a representative government installed. The issue of elections is expected to be dealt with in the next round of talks.

But it is hard to see how national elections can be conducted. It was Hamas’ upset election victory 11 years ago that led to a civil war with Fatah that cemented Gaza’s effective political and territorial separation from the West Bank.

Polls indicate that Abbas or any of his likely successors would lose the presidential election to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. In addition, Fatah would suffer in Gaza, where its vote would be weakened by support for Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas’ rival who has been exiled to the United Arab Emirates. With the help of Egypt, Dahlan has been pumping Gulf money into Gaza to build his support base and challenge Abbas.

Abbas’ best hope may be that Hamas seeks to avoid the responsibility of running Gaza again and agrees not to contest the presidential election.

Or, more likely, said Khatib, long-overdue elections will be deferred, and the current government of unelected technocrats allowed to continue in office.

‘Reconciliation is doomed’

Equally divisive is the question of whether or how to integrate Hamas into the institutions of the PLO. Hamas has in the past insisted that in return for sharing the governance of Gaza with Fatah, it expects to have a stake in a reformed PLO. But including Hamas would be certain to undermine Abbas’ diplomatic strategy of seeking Palestinian statehood, Khatib said. Israel and the international community would be likely to withdraw their recognition of the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.


When and why the split

Why Fatah and Hamas won’t reconcile


“The danger is that each side knows reconciliation is doomed and is waiting this out in the hope that developments will provide them with an opportunity to blame the other side for the inevitable failure,” Rabbani said.

Another major hurdle is finding an arrangement for Hamas’ 25,000-strong security forces in Gaza. Abbas has said he expects Hamas’ military wing to be subordinate to the PA security services in Ramallah. In an interview with Egyptian TV last week, he called for “one state, one regime, one law and one weapon”.

Further, the Trump administration may insist on this provision. A statement last week from Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s envoy to the region, said the unity government would have to “explicitly commit to nonviolence”.

However, disarmament or limitations on Hamas’ military wing would almost certainly be a deal-breaker, especially given the PA’s long-standing “security coordination” with Israel.

Hamas has spent years building a sophisticated network of tunnels under Gaza that it believes were the key to its success in withstanding the onslaught from Israel in the 2014 war. It is difficult to imagine it giving up either the tunnels or its weapons.

Hamas’ popularity also depends on its commitment, sanctioned by international law, to armed resistance. To concede control over its military wing would be to strip the movement of its very raison d’etre.

Nonetheless, there may be a path out of this apparent deadlock.

Egypt’s role

In response to Abbas’ statements, Haniya told Egyptian TV that, while the movement would never cede what he called “weapons of the resistance”, it would agree to joint decisions with Fatah about when and how they would be used.

Egypt is reported to have proposed the creation of a joint security council in Gaza. Its representatives would be split evenly between Hamas and Fatah, and consensus needed to sanction armed actions.

Crucially, Egypt would have oversight of the council, effectively giving it a casting vote if the two Palestinian factions could not agree.

A former Palestinian government minister, who wished not to be named, told Al Jazeera he expected Egyptian intelligence officials to directly supervise Gaza’s security forces. That would allow Cairo to monitor more closely connections between Salafist groups in Gaza and those in Sinai, which have been waging an insurrection against the Egyptian army.

But it is not clear whether Abbas will agree to relinquish his powers as supreme commander of the Palestinian security forces.

Rabbani warned against ignoring “the elephant in the room”: Israel.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources reported that an Israeli delegation touched down in Cairo for a few hours on Tuesday, as the talks between Hamas and Fatah began.

If those reports are right, it confirms how vital Egypt considers Israel’s cooperation to be if reconciliation is to hold.

The last unity government, established in summer 2014, was short-lived. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it from the outset as a “vote for terror”.

Weeks later, after three Jewish youths were kidnapped and killed in the occupied West Bank, Israel stepped up attacks on Gaza, culminating in a war that killed more than 1,500 civilians in the enclave. The fighting sounded the death knell for the unity government.

Rabbani said Israel might try to engineer another confrontation to sabotage the reconciliation process.

“Statements from [Defence Minister Avigdor] Lieberman are that Israel is preparing for another war with [the Lebanese faction] Hezbollah,” said Rabbani. “But he has said that such a war can’t be contained to the northern border – it will include Hamas too.”

“For sure, Netanyahu is keen to create disruptions. He prefers that the West Bank and Gaza stay divided so that there is no pressure on him to negotiate.”

Gershon Baskin, a director of the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information and one of the few Israelis to have regular contact with the Hamas leadership, said Netanyahu would be on the lookout for opportunities to damage the unity government.

“For sure, he is keen to create disruptions,” he told Al Jazeera. “He prefers that the West Bank and Gaza stay divided so that there is no pressure on him to negotiate. He can then say Abbas does not represent all Palestinians or have control over all Palestinian territory.”

Subversion by stealth

But Baskin also believes Netanyahu will be reluctant to make his opposition to the deal too explicit.

He noted that the Israeli army is also warning that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza risks triggering a new round of fighting with Hamas that would be better avoided.

Netanyahu will also not want to be seen to be openly defying the White House when Trump has publicly stated that he wants a regional peace framework in which Egypt is likely to play a key role.

Trump, it was recently reported, told Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, at a meeting last month that he considered Netanyahu the bigger obstacle to a peace deal.

And Netanyahu is likely to be wary of sabotaging too directly the handiwork of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when the Egyptian president clearly regards Palestinian reconciliation as a pressing security interest for Egypt.

But Netanyahu will do his best to subvert the unity government by stealth, said Baskin.

Even before the reconciliation agreement was announced, Netanyahu had called on the unity government to disband Hamas’ military wing and for Hamas to cut its ties to Iran – conditions designed to strain Hamas-Fatah ties.

This week, in a reminder of how quickly a confrontation could escalate, Israel attacked Gaza to punish Hamas after a Salafist group fired a rocket into Israel after the arrest by Hamas of several of its members.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017