Palestinians forge unity government
Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad ink deal
PALESTINIAN factions reached a historic agreement in Moscow on Tuesday to form a government of national unity (GNU). After three day of intense negotiations in Moscow, key Palestinian factions, which included Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad among others, agreed to unite.
The organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections.
This is the first time in years that the movements have managed to put aside their differences and move towards a common Palestinian vision.
“It is significant that Islamic Jihad is part of the process as they could have been serious spoilers,” Mohamed Dangor, adviser on the Middle East to the South African government told Independent Media.
“The agreement can be seen as a reaction to Trumpism and the world moving to the right, especially France and Germany.
“This is an important development as it builds on the work done in South Africa last year,” Dangor commented.
The Palestinian factions agreed that over the next two months, new members would be elected to the National Council and the sides would form a new government.
An international peace conference held in Paris on Sunday, a recent UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlements, and Trump’s inauguration are seen as catalysts behind the agreement.
The role of Russia in brokering the agreement is significant given its interest in playing a major role in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
It is also significant that the agreement was reached just before the inauguration of US president-elect Donald Trump.
“Russia is well-placed to play a role in the Middle East peace process,” said Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa, Hashem Aldajani. “Russia has always supported Palestinian rights and a two-state solution.”
Historically, peace negotiations have been dominated by the US, but the intervention of Russia signals a move away from a US-dominated peace process.
To operationalise the creation of a GNU, the factions met last week in Beirut to discuss and prepare for elections.
According to Aldajani, the unity government will include most of the main Palestinian groups.
The numerous strategic meetings of Palestinian factions held in South Africa last year undoubtedly contributed to laying the basis for unity, as it brought the various factions together over week-long meetings at which they discussed their differences.
The South African non-governmental organisation In Transformation Initiative (ITI) hosted these meetings in Cape Town, and was positive about the progress the factions had made in coming together.
“We would like to believe that South Africa contributed to this emerging Palestinian unity even if in a modest way,” said Mohammed Bhabha, one of the directors of ITI. “The shuttle diplomacy of ITI between the various groupings created space for them to interact.”
One of the objectives of the Palestinian meetings in Cape Town had been to share the South African experience of negotiations and transition to democracy with the Palestinian political formations.
Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, and was prevented from governing the whole of the Palestinian territories. Municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza strip were postponed last year after the high court ruled they should only be held in the West Bank, governed by Fatah.
The prospects of Palestinian unity creates an opportunity for negotiations with the Israelis as there will be greater clarity on whom the negotiating partner is.
A demonstrator in Gaza City holds a Palestinian flag during a rally calling on rivals Hamas and Fatah to end their political division.