Accord leaves issue of Hamas military wing unsolved
The Egyptian-brokered Fatah-Hamas accord, portrayed as a breakthrough after a decade of bitter division, is partial rather than comprehensive – with make-or-break issues of Hamas’s military wing and fate of Hamas-appointed civil servants remaining to be resolved.
Both sides are under strong pressure from Egypt, the US and Israel to collect Hamas’s weapons, demobilise Hamas’s military units, restrict Hamas’s role in a national unity government and reduce the presence of Hamas civil servants in the administration.
Fatah is, however, under countervailing pressure from Palestinians to reach compromises on these issues. Even Fatah members favour maintaining Hamas’s military wing while putting it under the control of the unity government.
‘Collective national decision’
Fatah official Abbas Zaki told the daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat: “We believe that the weapons are needed and resistance is a duty, but we are seeking an agreement over the need for a collective national decision as the basis for the use of those weapons.”
He argued that Fatah had not renounced the armed struggle, but said it should be based on national consensus.
Having suffered under Fatah’s harsh and corrupt rule until 2007, Gazans want balance in both the unity government and Gaza’s administration. They also demand an early end to sanctions imposed on Gaza that have cut the flow of electricity and reduced essential medical supplies.
Fatah and Hamas are negotiating at a time of extreme weakness. Fatah has failed to secure through negotiations the promised Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while Hamas’s attempts to employ military leverage on Israel to effect withdrawal from occupied territory have prompted devastating Israeli wars in 2008-09 and 2014.
Their weakness has encouraged Egypt’s president, Abed al-Fattah al-Sisi, to mount this reconciliation effort, the 13th since 2005.
Although Israel is said to support reconciliation, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu makes impossible demands of both Fatah and Hamas as the price of acceptance. He insists on the disbandment of Hamas’s armed wing.