Rival Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah, agreed to negotiate a temporary government of national unity within the next five weeks, as part of a larger reconciliation deal reached Wednesday in Gaza. The agreement calls for an end to violence between the two groups and for holding elections early next year. The new, temporary government will be under the auspices of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and possibly led by current Fatah and PLO president Mahmoud Abbas.
Wednesday’s deal represents one of several reconciliation agreements, signed but never implemented since Hamas forcefully took over Gaza in 2006. The first agreement, signed in Mecca in 2007, called for a ceasefire between Fatah and Hamas, but ultimately failed to produce any political unity. The two sides met for another attempt at reconciliation in 2012, signing the Doha Declaration. The Doha agreement called for a technocratic government led by Abbas to oversee the Palestinian territories until elections could be held. Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo three months later where they recommitted to the Doha agreement, taking steps such as registering voters. However, the agreement again went unimplemented.
Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed (L), head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh (C) and senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq hold their hands after announcing a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City April 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
Given the fierce, and sometimes violent, rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, analysts see little reason for optimism that the new deal will be executed. However, Hamas’s weaker position in Gaza may make the group more amenable to the agreement. The terrorist organization continues to suffer from financial difficulties from an Israeli blockade and has become increasingly isolated over the last year. After the military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, security forces destroyed nearly 1,200 tunnels to prevent violence and smuggling from Gaza. Without the tunnels, Hamas lost an important route for goods and weapons, hurting Gaza’s economy. Iran, which has traditionally supported Hamas, decided to limit ties with the Sunni group, following its support for Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al-Asad. Instead Tehran now supplies funds to Islamic Jihad, a rival Islamist faction.
Israel and the United States both condemned the reconciliation agreement with the Israeli foreign minister calling peace with Hamas impossible. This week’s announcement has ended the already stalled U.S. sponsored peace negotiations; Hamas continually calls for violent destruction of the Jewish state. Wednesday’s round of talks in Ramallah were cancelled, while Abbas may attempt a renewed bid for statehood status at the U.N.