Palestinian reconciliation in Algiers reflects skepticism, but early to dismiss outright - opinion

One of the biggest obstacles that can torpedo reconciliation is the position of the international community regarding any alliances with the Islamic Hamas movement.

View of Algiers, Algeria (photo credit: DAMIEN BOILLEY/CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
View of Algiers, Algeria
(photo credit: DAMIEN BOILLEY/CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The reconciliation agreement reached in Algeria’s capital has not gone over very well among Palestinians. The details of the deal do not differ much from previous agreements that have never been implemented.  

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The Algerian leadership that is preparing for next month’s Arab League Summit in Algiers was rushed to produce an agreement to show to Arab leaders. The real follow-through to the Algerian Declaration will take place starting on the day after the gathering.  

Palestinians in the occupied territories paid little attention to the deal, noting – correctly – that reconciliations are only made on the ground, not in the hotels of Arab capitals tens of thousands of miles away. The fact that both the Ramallah-based Palestine TV and the Hamas-funded Al-Aqsa satellite television station did not broadcast live the signing of the reconciliation agreement reflected this lack of faith in the agreement. But it would be a mistake to easily dismiss the Algerian announcement, if for no other reason than the weight of Algeria in the Palestinian national struggle and in its being by far the strongest support of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world.

The crux of the matter will fall on the simple issue of whether the Algerians will have enough clout, possibly working with Egypt, Jordan and others, possibly delegated by the Arab League, to enforce the deal. A key component will be whether the Algerians will have the courage to point to any side of the Palestinian conflict that will be putting obstacles in the way of carrying out the reconciliation deal.

One of the biggest obstacles that can torpedo reconciliation is the position of the international community regarding any alliances with the Islamic Hamas movement. The Ramallah-based leadership feels that unless Hamas accepts all international agreements pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict they cannot be part of any unity government that prepares for future elections.

 French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at the presidential palace in Algiers, Algeria August 25, 2022 (credit: VIA REUTERS) French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at the presidential palace in Algiers, Algeria August 25, 2022 (credit: VIA REUTERS)

Hamas

Others say that there are ways to avoid this dead end by Hamas joining the PLO and therefore automatically being bound by all agreements that the PLO had accepted internationally. Conversely, it is possible that a unity government can include non-Hamas members who can be nominated by the Hamas leadership.

Hamas, for its part, is moving closer and closer to accepting most international agreements including the two-state solution; and by having joined and run for elections in 2007 it has de facto accepted the Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles commonly referred to as the Oslo Accords. The sticking point of course is the issue of security coordination. Again, this issue appears to have been weakened due to the continuous Israeli violations in the West Bank of Palestinian security sovereignty in Area A which have resulted in a reduction in security coordination. At the same time, Hamas appears to have reached its own form of coordination with the Israelis under the name thahdia (quietness), which was best illustrated when Hamas refused to be involved in the most recent Israeli-Palestinian spike in violence in August.

What complicates the reconciliation process of course is the succession issue within the Fatah movement. Not only did President Authority President Mahmoud Abbas skip the Algerian meeting (he was busy with a previous commitment in Kazakhstan), but his deputy in Fatah, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, and the secretary of Fatah, Jibril Rajoub, as well as Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, also did not show up in Algiers.

A further complicating factor is a spike in armed attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied West Bank and what is seen as a disproportionate Israeli response that aims at regaining the fading deterrence that had been built over the years. The fact that Palestinian security is not as active in helping Israel has put Israeli security in a difficult situation of having to intervene and storm Palestinian cities which puts its soldiers in danger and further infuriates the Palestinian public, moving it further and further away from the moderation of President Abbas and closer to the concept of the need to increase Palestinian resistance as seen by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as by many elements within Fatah itself.

It is too early to say whether the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed in Algiers will fail as have the previous agreements, but one thing is clear: Both Fatah and Hamas are in more need of each other than they have been in the past. Hamas needs the legitimacy and access that Fatah can provide, and Fatah needs a foothold in Gaza and the ability to more powerfully represent Palestinians that a genuine unity agreement and implementation of it will provide. Only time and actions on the ground will answer this difficult question.