“By engaging Israel in a process of reconciliation, the Palestinians can strengthen the hands of the Israeli opposition parties who will then be in a stronger position to make the case to the Israeli public in favour of peace based on a two-state solution
In this regard, it should be noted that Sisi also wants a demilitarised Gaza and Hamas’ full cooperation to combat terrorism in northern Sinai. Thus, if Hamas wants to reconcile with the PA, it must work with Egypt to resolve the weapons problem, without which there will be neither a unity agreement with the PA nor a solution to the conflict with Israel. In this connection, the PA must also deploy its security forces into Gaza to take charge of the crossings into Israel to ease Israeli concerns and restrictions.
The third obdurate issue is the political nature of a future Palestinian government. Although both sides must remain committed to a democratic form of government, the Palestinians should agree on deferring general elections for at least five years, which the US and EU ought to support. In the interim, the PA and Hamas will establish a proportionate representative unity government based on the current demographic composition of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Both sides would select representatives to fill all major government posts, with decisions made by consensus rather than a simple majority vote.
Due to the current political environment between the two sides, and given that it has already been established that the unity government will be led by Abbas, the prime minister should be selected from Hamas. General elections will be held once the transitional period passes, allowing new leadership to emerge. Both sides will have to fully abide by the results of the elections; otherwise, they will end up again as bitter rivals.
It should be emphasised that all cabinet members and other top officials must be apolitical figures — skilled, professional bureaucrats who will focus mainly on social programs, reconstruction, healthcare, education, and economic development both in the West Bank and Gaza.
The transitional period is particularly important not only for the Palestinians to reconcile many of their differences, but also for advancing the peace process with Israel. Indeed, if peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resume now, they will simply fail like all previous attempts since the 1993-1994 Oslo Accords.
Israel and the Palestinians must first engage in a process of reconciliation to build trust, which is totally lacking, and mitigate major security concerns before they can resume negotiations in earnest.
This can be achieved only by initiating government-togovernment economic projects and people-to-people social activities to build trust. Thus, a transitional period is central to mitigate both the intra-Palestinian political discord as well as relations with Israel.
Under any circumstances, the current right-wing Israeli government led by Netanyahu will not seek nor commit to a two-state solution. Therefore, what is critical here is that by engaging Israel in a process of reconciliation, the Palestinians can strengthen the hands of the Israeli opposition parties who will then be in a stronger position to make the case to the Israeli public in favour of peace based on a two-state solution.
Notwithstanding the deplorable Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the blockade over Gaza, blaming Israel solely for the Palestinians’ misfortunes while refusing to look at their own shortcomings did nothing but undermine their legitimate cause.
The PA and Hamas must now put their act together, abandon their old and tired narrative, stop their incitements and violent extremism against Israel, and present a plausible scenario for peace based on the API.
It is true that this is a tall order. Given the stark ideological differences between the PA and Hamas, their contrasting approaches to resolving the conflict with Israel, and their rivalry for power, the chance of success is not promising unless they tackle the three major conflicting issues head on.
Otherwise, the PA-Hamas reconciliation efforts will amount to no more than a poker game where each side tries to outsmart or outright cheat the other. It is time for the PA and Hamas’ leadership to play their cards right.