Unity plan for Fatah and Hamas dies

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 29, 2013

The counter-revolution in Egypt which cost Hamas its Muslim Brotherhood patrons has also put paid to the attempt to bring about reconciliation between the Islamist movement controlling Gaza and Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Attempts by various brokers, mainly Egypt and Qatar, to reunite the two main Palestinian movements have been ongoing for over three years.

Despite signing a number of agreements, however, the sides are no closer to forming a unity government or holding long overdue elections for the Palestinian National Council and the presidency.

In Egypt, not only have Hamas’s supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood, been bloodily ousted from power, but Hamas is now being accused by the new government of undermining Egyptian security.

This has left the Islamists in Gaza at a major political disadvantage. Following its break with Iran and Syria two years ago when the bloody civil war broke out, Hamas is now left without any major backers in the Arab world.

Hamas is now without major backers in the Arab world

While the official policy of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is still to more towards reconciliation, officials in the PA are saying that chances of it happening have never been as low. It is also understood that some Fatah leaders close to President Mahmoud Abbas are trying to persuade him to call for elections without first achieving an agreement with Hamas. In such a case, Hamas would almost certainly forbid polling from taking place in Gaza. This could lead the PA to cut off all financial assistance to the Strip, which is already experiencing major financial hardship following Egypt’s destruction of most of the smuggling tunnels under their border and extended closure of the Rafah crossing.

Hamas’s weakness has also made it easier for Mr Abbas to continue peace talks with Israel. In a meeting with Israeli parliamentarian last Thursday in Ramallah, he said that “a peace agreement will be final and an end to the conflict. We will not be demanding Haifa and Acre after it.”

This statement was meant to counter claims on the right in Israel that the Palestinians are not interested in reaching a two-state solution and are instead intent on continuing the conflict until the dismantlement of the Jewish state.

Israeli security officials are concerned that Hamas may go back to launching rockets at Israel if it remains marginalised by events and the peace talks. Hamas may believe that by provoking Israel into retaliating, it could derail the talks and make itself into a key player in the region.

Last updated: 4:30pm, August 29 2013