In Depth

Is Palestinian political unity finally on the cards?

Hamas agrees to reconciliation deal with rival Fatah movement, but serious divisions remain

Hamas has agreed to accept key demands made by Fatah, its more moderate Palestinian rival, potentially paving the way for reconciliation between the two factions. 

The two groups have been at odds since Hamas drove the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza strip in 2007, and numerous attempts at ending the decade-long split have ended in failure.

Fatah has welcomed the move, but experts warn that any reconciliation deal faces serious obstacles.

What exactly has Hamas agreed to?

Following days of indirect negotiations brokered by Egyptian officials, the militant group announced yesterday it had dissolved its controversial administrative committee, which rules Gaza, and agreed to a general election for the first time since 2006.

Hamas established the committee earlier this year, “angering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who derided [it] as a shadow government”, CNN reports. “Its dissolution would bridge a significant gap between the two sides.”

The group also invited the unity government led by Abbas to return to Gaza and said it was ready and willing to enter into direct talks with Fatah.

What has the reaction been?

Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official, welcomed the decision. “If this is Hamas’ statement, then this is a positive sign,” he told Reuters. “We in the Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation.”

The Palestinian Authority called it a step in the right direction, but was “careful not to talk about reconciliation with Hamas at this stage”, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “It would therefore seem that they will wait to see how things actually develop and to what extent Hamas is truly willing to give up control of the Strip,” the paper adds.

Israel has yet to respond, but has strongly objected to Palestinian reconciliation in the past, warning Abbas against forming a unity government with Hamas, which it lists as a terrorist organisation.

What obstacles remain?

One of the main issues is whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Abbas’s control — “a key sticking point that has scuttled past reconciliation attempts”, says the Associated Press.

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian reporter and former journalism professor, agrees. The “only way to resolve the current stalemate is for Hamas to swallow its pride and allow Abbas’s presidential guards back in control of the terminals in and out of the Gaza strip”, he writes on Al Jazeera.

“While many reconciliation arrangements and agreements were produced and publicly announced over the years, none have been executed,” says Kuttab. “The question remains whether this time [Hamas] will indeed follow through on their promises and commitments.”

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