Ha­mas, Fatah open rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks in Cairo

The Miracle - - Front Page - Source: Al-Jazeera

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal par­ties of Ha­mas and Fatah are meet­ing on Tues­day for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal, Cairo. The talks come a week af­ter Pales­tinian Author­ity (PA) Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah vis­ited the Gaza Strip to kick-start the process of trans­fer­ring ad­min­is­tra­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for the be­sieged ter­ri­tory from Ha­mas to the na­tional con­sen­sus govern­ment. The meet­ings in Cairo are cen­tred around im­ple­ment­ing the 2011 Cairo Agree­ment between the two po­lit­i­cal par­ties, in hopes of end­ing a 10-year po­lit­i­cal schism. Lead­ing the del­e­ga­tions are the deputy head of Ha­mas’s po­lit­i­cal of­fice, Saleh al-Arouri, and a mem­ber of the Fatah Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, Az­zam al-Ah­mad. A mem­ber of Ha­mas in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, Has­san Yousef, said that Is­rael blocked a del­e­ga­tion from trav­el­ling to Cairo through Jor­dan to par­tic­i­pate in the talks. Khalil al-Haya, a mem­ber of the Ha­mas del­e­ga­tion, said the mis­sion would dis­cuss form­ing a na­tional unity govern­ment with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal par­ties and pre­par­ing for leg­isla­tive, pres­i­den­tial and na­tional coun­cil elec­tions. Haya said the ne­go­ti­a­tions would fo­cus on end­ing Pales­tinian di­vi­sion “to con­front in­tran­si­gence and the Is­raeli project”. The 2011 agree­ment stip­u­lated that leg­isla­tive, pres­i­den­tial and na­tional coun­cil elec­tions should be con­ducted within one year of its sign­ing. The deal would see both Ha­mas and Fatah form a Pales­tinian govern­ment to ap­point the prime min­is­ter and min­is­te­rial po­si­tions. Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawas­meh told the of­fi­cial PA ra­dio that the Egyp­tian­bro­kered talks would stretch for three days and would fo­cus on en­abling the na­tional con­sen­sus govern­ment to ex­er­cise its po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity and eco­nomic func­tions in Gaza. Other is­sues on the agenda in­clude Gaza’s elec­tric­ity cri­sis, the salaries of PA em­ploy­ees in the coastal en­clave, se­cu­rity and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of border cross­ings. Over the last few months, Ha­mas has been un­der heavy pres­sure from PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’ mea­sures against Gaza, aimed at pres­sur­ing Ha­mas to re­lin­quish con­trol of the ter­ri­tory. Puni­tive mea­sures in­cluded cut­ting the salaries of PA em­ploy­ees liv­ing in Gaza and re­quest­ing Is­rael to re­duce the elec­tric­ity sup­ply to the ter­ri­tory. If the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts are suc­cess­ful, they could tem­po­rar­ily ease Gaza’s dire hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion. De­spite the lat­est Egyp­tian ini­tia­tive to end the di­vide between the West Bank-based PA, led by Fatah, and the Ha­mas move­ment in the Gaza Strip, sev­eral po­ten­tial ob­sta­cles could cause a na­tional unity govern­ment to fal­ter. Ha­mas’ pre­ferred method of armed re­sis­tance in fac­ing Is­rael is among the main ob­sta­cles, an­a­lysts say. Last week, Ab­bas called on Ha­mas to sur­ren­der its weapons. Speak­ing to Egyp­tian tele­vi­sion, Ab­bas called for “one state, one regime, one law and one weapon”. Ha­mas, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, has stressed that the is­sue of armed re­sis­tance is not up for dis­cus­sion. “The re­sis­tance’s weapons are le­gal,” spokesper­son Hazem Qassem told the lo­cal Maan News Agency. “They are here to pro­tect Pales­tini­ans and free their lands [from Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion].” Ha­mas has been Gaza’s de facto ruler since 2007, when the party de­feated Ab­bas’ long-dom­i­nant Fatah party in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. Ha­mas then pushed Fatah out of Gaza in a bloody con­flict. Ha­mas and Fatah have ruled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank re­spec­tively ever since. Ha­mas’ con­trol over se­cu­rity and its na­ture as an armed re­sis­tance move­ment have con­sti­tuted an ob­sta­cle for the PA, which co­op­er­ates with Is­rael on se­cu­rity-re­lated mat­ters as per the Oslo Ac­cords. Ibrahim Abrash, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and Gaza’s for­mer cul­ture min­is­ter, said some is­sues, such as Ha­mas’ recog­ni­tion of Is­rael and the 1967 bor­ders, “will take time to iron out ... but the dire sit­u­a­tion in Gaza can­not with­hold wait­ing any longer”. Abrash told Al Jazeera that, while he be­lieves Fatah is se­ri­ous about car­ry­ing out pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the fear is that Is­rael will get in­volved. Ab­bas’ term ex­pired in 2009, and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions have not been held since. “The last time Ha­mas joined elec­tions in 2006, Is­rael car­ried out a cam­paign of ar­rests against Ha­mas par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. There needs to be some Arab and in­ter­na­tional guar­an­tees that things would go smoothly,” said Abrash. On the is­sue of armed re­sis­tance, Abrash said Is­rael would make it “very dif­fi­cult” for the unity govern­ment to carry out its du­ties. “This would mean that the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem would be faulty, with some fac­tions car­ry­ing weapons and oth­ers not. I think th­ese is­sues will not be opened now, but in the end, this is­sue will ex­plode if the root of it is not solved.”

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