Palestinians skeptical about Fatah-Hamas election deal

A joint Fatah-Hamas statement issued after the meeting in Turkey said that the two parties agreed on a “vision” for holding the elections and achieving “national reconciliation.”

Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A meeting of leaders of Palestinians factions that was supposed to take place on Saturday to discuss holding new elections has been postponed indefinitely, apparently due to ongoing differences between the ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.
The meeting was supposed to approve the Fatah-Hamas understandings reached between the two sides in Turkey two weeks ago. Fatah and Hamas reportedly agreed to hold elections for the Palestinian Authority presidency and parliament, the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC).
A joint Fatah-Hamas statement issued after the meeting in Turkey said that the two parties agreed on a “vision” for holding the elections and achieving “national reconciliation.” According to the statement, the “vision” would be presented to a meeting of secretaries-general of the Palestinian factions, under the sponsorship of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, no later than October 1.
Fatah officials initially said the meeting would take place on October 3, adding that Abbas would afterwards issue a “presidential decree” setting a date for the elections. They said the elections would take place in three phases: first, for the PLC, second for the PA presidency, and third for the Palestine National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO.
In spite of the apparent rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinians have regarded the understandings on the elections with a fair amount of skepticism.
“It seems that neither Abbas nor Hamas are really interested in holding new elections,” a Palestinian political analyst told The Jerusalem Post.

“The Palestinian public, in addition, does not seem to care much about elections these days, particularly in wake of the growing number of coronavirus infections and the bad economy. The European Union appears to be more interested in the elections than the Palestinian public. Apparently, Abbas is facing pressure from the Europeans to hold new elections while the Palestinians are almost completely indifferent to the subject.”
A PLO official told the Post that, notwithstanding the progress achieved during the Fatah-Hamas discussions, “the two sides need more time to discuss several contentious issues.”
Fatah and Hamas, the official added, are each holding internal consultations to discuss the understandings they reached in Turkey.
The official said that Hamas has presented a number of demands as a precondition for implementing the Turkey-brokered understandings with Fatah.
The demands include, among other things, lifting the financial sanctions Abbas imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2008, halting the PA security crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank and the release of Hamas detainees held in PA prisons.
Hassan Asfour, a former Palestinian negotiator and editor of the Amad news website, scoffed at the emerging Fatah-Hamas “partnership,” dubbing it “the political lie of the century.” He said that Fatah’s talk about a partnership with Hamas “is an absolute political fraud. There is nothing that unites them except for a current stage of partisan goals. Hamas’s slogan, ‘Islam is the solution,’ is not compatible with Fatah’s program.”
Palestinian political science professor Ayman Al-Rigib ruled out the possibility that Abbas would accept Hamas’s demands. He pointed out that despite the talk about progress, Fatah has still not issued a statement about the need to cancel Abbas’s decision to halt the payments of salaries to thousands of Palestinian employees in the Gaza Strip.
Last Thursday, the Fatah Central Committee endorsed the understandings with Hamas and praised them as a “prelude for ending the division (between the PA-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip) and unifying the Palestinian position, especially at this critical phase of the Palestinian issue.”
The committee affirmed its rejection of “all schemes and conspiracies aimed at liquidating our national cause, first and foremost the Deal of the Century, Israeli annexation plans and free normalization with the occupation state.”
The Deal of the Century refers to US President Donald Trump’s plan for Mideast peace, “Peace to Prosperity,” unveiled last January. The “annexation” refers to Israel’s since-shelved plan to apply its sovereignty to portions of the West Bank, while “normalization” refers to peace treaties signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“The track of national partnership is an irreversible strategic option,” the Fatah committee said.
Hamas, for its part, praised the statement and reiterated its readiness to “achieve national unity and partnership” with Fatah. “Our national unity will foil the dubious conspiracies and deals,” Hamas said.
Hamas, however, emphasized that its bilateral dialogue with Fatah – despite its importance – “is not a substitute for a comprehensive dialogue between all Palestinian factions.”
Hamas said that it will continue to “stick to the option of resistance (against Israel) until the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Hamas stressed that the success of the reconciliation talks with Fatah requires the “creation of an atmosphere of freedom and the consecration of pluralism in a way that increases the people’s confidence in the seriousness of achieving national unity.”
Nafez Azzam, a senior official with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest Iran-backed group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, said he did not believe that the Palestinians would be able to hold new elections in the near future. The current discussions between Fatah and Hamas, despite the positive atmosphere, are still far from reaching agreement, Azzam added.