Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo on Wednesday and agreed to “call on all Palestinian factions to implement the reconciliation agreement” signed by the two in May 2011, according to Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq. Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported that a meeting is planned for the first week of February in which the factions will set a timeline for implementing the deal.
Since their 2007 split, Fatah and Hamas have signed four reconciliation agreements; all failed to materialize. The 2011 agreement called for creating an interim government of independent technocrats tasked with preparing for elections in the West Bank and Gaza to be held within a year. That plan, like the previous ones, fizzled soon after it was signed, with both parties blaming the other for it stalling. But what seemed to put the nail in the coffin was that Hamas officials in Gaza publicly criticized the deal and particularly opposed appointing Abbas as interim prime minister, which Mashaal agreed to at a follow-up meeting between the two in February 2012.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas
Since the UN’s decision to upgrade the Palestinians’ status and the end of November’s Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas and Fatah have made a point to focus on reconciliation. Last month, the PA allowed residents in the West Bank to rally in celebration of Hamas’s 25th anniversary, and Hamas granted Fatah permission to rally in Gaza to mark its 48th anniversary, which it did last week. Hamas and Fatah banned rallies in support of the opposite parties in the areas they control after their 2007 war.
With neither side showing a willingness to concede an inch of power, and with reports that Mashaal may soon be replaced as politburo chief, even with such recent public displays of affection there is good reason to believe very little, if anything, will come of the latest Abbas-Mashaal meeting.