Fatah rebuffs initiative to end rift with Hamas

Fatah’s rejection of the initiative is seen by Palestinian political analysts as a setback to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to hold general elections.

October 2, 2019 04:51
4 minute read.
Fatah rebuffs initiative to end rift with Hamas

Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed (2nd L), head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh (3rd L) and senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq (4th L) , hold their hands after announcing a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City April 23, 2014. The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud A. (photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)

The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction has dismissed as “futile” a new initiative aimed at resolving its dispute with Hamas.

Fatah’s rejection of the initiative, announced by eight Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip last week, is seen by Palestinian political analysts as a setback to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to hold general elections.

During his recent speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas said that upon his return to Ramallah, he would call for holding long overdue general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Hamas and several Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad, have welcomed Abbas’s call for holding elections. They said, however, that before holding the vote, Fatah and Hamas need to implement previous “reconciliation agreements” they signed over the past 12 years.

The agreements, which call for holding presidential and parliamentary elections, were never implemented due to sharp differences and continued bickering between Hamas and Fatah over various contentious issues, including allowing the PA government to assume full control of the Gaza Strip.

The latest drive to resolve the Fatah-Hamas dispute was presented to the two sides by eight Palestinian groups: Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestinian People’s Party, Palestinian Democratic Union, Palestinian National Initiative, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, and Al-Sa’iqa (a pro-Syrian Palestinian Ba’athist group).

The initiative calls on Fatah and Hamas to consider their previous accords as a reference for ending their dispute and restoring national unity and holding a meeting in Egypt to discuss ways of reforming and reconstructing the PLO, the umbrella organization that includes several groups, the largest of which is Fatah.

According to the initiative, Abbas will attend the meeting in Cairo, where the Palestinian faction leaders would reach agreement on the formation of a transitional unity government that would serve until the holding of new elections.

In addition, the initiative requires Fatah and Hamas to halt “all forms of political detention” and incitement against each other, as well as setting a timetable for the transitional period (between October 2019 and July 2020) during which Fatah and Hamas would agree on the formation of the unity government and elections for the PA presidency, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the PLO’s legislative body, the Palestine National Council.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed criticized the initiative and accused the eight factions behind it of “receiving orders from Hamas.”

Any attempt to exclude Egypt from efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rivalry was completely unacceptable, he said. Ahmed accused the eight factions of seeking to “sabotage” Egypt’s ongoing effort to resolve the conflict between Fatah and Hamas.

“These factions must first present their initiative to Egypt, and not to us, because the Egyptians had sponsored previous reconciliation agreements [between Fatah and Hamas],” the Fatah official told the PA’s Ramallah-based Palestine TV station. “Who do these factions represent?”

Ahmed accused Hamas and Islamic Jihad of hindering the implementation of all the “reconciliation agreements” that were reached under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.

The last “reconciliation agreement” was signed in Cairo in October 2017. Under the terms of the agreement, the Palestinians were supposed to hold general elections within one year and reach agreement on the formation of an interim government.

The Cairo agreement collapsed in March 2018, when Fatah accused Hamas of being behind the bombing of the convoy of former PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the northern Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah, also dismissed the initiative and said the only way to end divisions among the Palestinians was for Hamas to implement the previous accords.

“There’s no need for new initiatives because the previous agreements were not implemented,” he said. “In order to end the crisis, we need to hold new elections, as President Abbas said.”

Hamas, meanwhile, has welcomed the initiative, denying that it was meant to replace the Egyptian mediation efforts. Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif Qanou said on Tuesday that the factions’ initiative was “supportive of, and not an alternative to,” the Egyptian efforts.

Political analysts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said on Tuesday that the gap between Fatah and Hamas remains as wide as ever.

“The latest initiative was born dead,” said an analyst from Ramallah. “The initiative came from groups that are closely associated with Hamas, and that’s why Fatah does not consider them neutral.”

A Gaza-based analyst said that the failure of the initiative “means that the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip will continue for many years.”

Fatah and Hamas, he added, “continue to tell our people that they want to end the division. But most Palestinians no longer believe them. If they can’t agree on the implementation of all the agreements they signed in the past 12 years, what makes you believe they could agree on holding new elections?”

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