Fatah says ‘honeymoon’ with Hamas will end soon

Sides discussed ‘national rally against the annexation plan’ at meeting

Fatah and Hamas officials wait for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and representatives of Palestinian groups and movements as a part of an intra-Palestinian talks in Moscow, Russia February 12, 2019 (photo credit: PAVEL GOLOVKIN/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Fatah and Hamas officials wait for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and representatives of Palestinian groups and movements as a part of an intra-Palestinian talks in Moscow, Russia February 12, 2019
Hamas and Fatah officials met in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to discuss preparations for holding a joint rally to express their rejection of Israel’s intention to apply its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank and US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century.
The meeting is seen by Palestinians in the context of the two parties’ recent efforts to end their dispute, which reached its peak in 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this month, Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, and Saleh Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’s “political bureau,” held a joint press interview through a teleconference, during which they announced they had reached an agreement to cooperate in toppling the Israeli annexation plan and Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”
Rajoub, a former commander of the PA Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, has since been spearheading Fatah’s efforts to achieve “national reconciliation” and unity with Hamas.
Several senior Fatah officials in the West Bank are said to be opposed to Rajoub’s conciliatory approach toward Hamas. By presenting himself as the unifier of Palestinians, Rajoub is mainly concerned about strengthening his chances of succeeding PA President Mahmoud Abbas, they believe.
Tuesday’s meeting in the Gaza Strip was held one day after Rajoub announced that Fatah and Hamas were planning to hold a joint rally in the coming days to voice their rejection of the annexation plan and Trump’s plan. The Fatah delegation was headed by Ahmed Hils, while the Hamas team was headed by Khalil al-Hayya.
A joint Fatah-Hamas statement issued after the meeting said the two sides discussed “mechanisms for holding a national rally against the annexation plan and the ‘Deal of the Century’ with the participation of international personalities.” The statement did not set a date for the planned rally.
Fatah and Hamas officials on Monday said Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would address the rally by video conference. Abbas has not set foot in the Gaza Strip since Hamas overthrew his PA regime there 13 years ago. Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip earlier this year and has been living in Qatar.
Last month, Fatah held a major rally in Jericho to express its rejection of the Israeli annexation plan. The rally was attended by dozens of foreign diplomats, as well as EU and UN officials, who delivered speeches warning Israel against carrying out its plan to extend its sovereignty to portions of the West Bank.
Then, Fatah came under criticism for not inviting representatives of other Palestinian factions to the Jericho rally, which was mostly attended by Fatah activists and PA employees.
Another Fatah-sponsored rally that was supposed to be held in Ramallah last week, with the participation of Hamas and other Palestinian factions, was called off at the last minute due to restrictions imposed by the PA government to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Although many Palestinians remain skeptical about the prospects of ending the Fatah-Hamas rift, senior Hamas official Hussam Badran on Tuesday said the planned rally would lay the foundations for fresh understandings between the two parties. The Israeli annexation plan, he said, has made Palestinians realize that the political process with Israel, which lasted for three decades, has ended.
“It’s hard to find Palestinians who really believe that Hamas and Fatah are on their way to ending their dispute,” said Amer Mustafa, a political analyst from the Gaza Strip. “It’s easy to hold rallies and press conferences all the time, but Palestinians are aware that all previous attempts to end the conflict between Fatah and Hamas have failed.”
A Fatah official in Ramallah said he, too, was not optimistic regarding the possibility of achieving reconciliation between his faction and Hamas.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Trump have temporarily united the Palestinians,” the veteran official said. “Hamas and Fatah may have agreed to lay aside their differences to confront the Israeli and American plans, but that does not mean that the differences between them have gone away.
“The gap between Fatah and Hamas remains as wide as ever, especially regarding the peace process with Israel and ways of responding to the Israeli annexation plan, if and when it’s implemented. Hamas is calling for launching a comprehensive resistance that includes the use of violence against Israel, while Fatah has made it clear that it’s opposed to a return to the armed struggle [against Israel] at this stage.”
The Fatah official also noted that Hamas remains opposed to Abbas’s recent statements in which he expressed readiness to resume peace negotiations with Israel under the sponsorship of the Quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) and other international parties.
“Hamas is prepared to support Abbas as long as he’s not talking to Israel,” he said. “But once Abbas returns to the negotiating table with Israel, the current honeymoon between Fatah and Hamas will be over sooner than we expected.”