FATAH AND HA­MAS DEAL OF­FERS NEW HOPE TO PEO­PLE OF GAZA

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween ri­val Pales­tinian fac­tions after 10-year rift an­nounced to much fan­fare in Cairo

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JA­COB WIRTSCHAFTER

The sec­u­lar na­tion­al­ist Fatah move­ment and the Is­lamist group Ha­mas signed a Pales­tinian rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal yes­ter­day that aims to re­turn a sem­blance of se­cu­rity and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity to the Gaza Strip.

The agree­ment in­cludes ar­range­ments to bring west­ern-trained Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity (PA) po­lice to the be­lea­guered ter­ri­tory, ad­min­is­tra­tive con­ces­sions on civil ser­vice salaries, and the re­moval of Ha­mas forces from the Rafah bor­der cross­ing into Egypt, ac­cord­ing to Egyp­tian se­cu­rity sources.

For Egypt, the deal signed by Saleh Al Aruri of Ha­mas and Fatah’s Azam Al Ah­mad at the Cairo head­quar­ters of the Gen­eral In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice, is a point of pride. The pres­ence of Egyp­tian in­tel­li­gence chief Khaled Fawzi sig­nalled Cairo’s ex­pec­ta­tion that Ha­mas and Fatah would set­tle their dif­fer­ences in the in­ter­est of im­prov­ing se­cu­rity and gain­ing in­de­pen­dence for Pales­tine.

For Pales­tini­ans, the suc­cess of the at­tempt to end a 10-year rift in their lead­er­ship is a mat­ter of sur­vival.

“The past 10 years have been cat­a­strophic,” said Mkhaimar Abu­sada, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Al Azhar Univer­sity in Gaza. “If we don’t suc­ceed this time for­get about it – this is go­ing to be the end.”

That sense of ur­gency was on dis­play last week as the Pales­tinian cab­i­net con­vened its first meet­ing in Gaza since 2014.

The Cairo ac­cord says the con­sen­sus gov­ern­ment will of­fi­cially take full ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol of Gaza from De­cem­ber 1, with the two sides re­turn­ing to the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal in Novem­ber for more talks.

Ha­mas has made se­ri­ous con­ces­sions by ced­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive pow­ers and al­low­ing armed of­fi­cers from Fatah back on the streets of Gaza.

But the move­ment’s lead­er­ship thinks the deal ce­ments its place in­side Pales­tinian gov­ern­ing struc­tures, fa­cil­i­tates the re­turn of ba­sic ser­vices to its Gaza con­stituents and safe­guards the sur­vival of its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“Un­like pre­vi­ous agree­ments, the cur­rent one will al­low Ha­mas to par­tic­i­pate in the new unity gov­ern­ment,” said Salah Bar­dawil, a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial. “Ha­mas will not lay down its arms, and re­sis­tance to Is­rael is not ne­go­tiable.”

But for the nearly two mil­lion

res­i­dents of Gaza, the hope now is that aban­don­ment of fac­tion­al­ism and Egyp­tian-led diplo­macy will give them breath­ing space to re­build their lives.

“The rift has caused end­less dam­age,” said Samyah Ma­her, an un­em­ployed 22-year-old with a de­gree in com­puter engi­neer­ing from a lo­cal tech­ni­cal col­lege.

“Homes and schools go for hours with­out elec­tric­ity. The bor­der cross­ings need to be opened and re­build­ing from the last war is still not fin­ished.”

The 2014 war be­tween Ha­mas and Is­rael dam­aged 171,000 res­i­den­tial struc­tures in Gaza and 33,000 peo­ple have yet to re­turn to their homes.

An­a­lysts say the deal to fund a work­ing civil ser­vice in Gaza will stop the cy­cle of “de-de­vel­op­ment” in the strip re­sult­ing from Ha­mas’ dom­i­na­tion of the ter­ri­tory and three ma­jor wars with Is­rael over the course of 10 years.

“Real in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to the Pales­tini­ans will only come if the donors are con­vinced there will not be an­other war and the same is true for global in­vestors look­ing to part­ner with the PA to de­velop the nat­u­ral gas fields off the Gaza coast,” Mr Abu­sada said.

The rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pact demon­strates Egypt’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to as­sert its role as the in­dis­pens­able power bro­ker in the re­gion as ISIL faces de­feat in Iraq and Syria and the Sunni Arab coun­tries set their sights on the Ira­nian threat.

The ef­fort also rep­re­sents Cairo’s re­gion­wide drive to marginalise the Mus­lim Brother­hood. “Ha­mas is in cri­sis and was forced to break its or­gan­i­sa­tional re­la­tion­ship with the Mus­lim Brother­hood,” said Amin El Mahdy, an Egyp­tian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst who main­tains con­tacts with Is­raeli of­fi­cials and Pales­tinian politi­cians. “Re­al­ity is stronger than pol­i­tics and ide­ol­ogy.”

Still, there is sat­is­fac­tion within Egypt’s gov­ern­ing cir­cle that the Is­lamists’ re­gional al­lies were ex­cluded from the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process and from the diplo­matic over­tures to­wards Is­rael.

“There was a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, with each try­ing to prove that they could deal with Ha­mas alone,” said Saeed Okasha, an Is­raeli af­fairs an­a­lyst with the quasi-gov­ern­men­tal Al Ahram Cen­tre for Po­lit­i­cal and Strate­gic Stud­ies.

“But Egypt showed it was the only one to pro­duce a pro­duc­tive dia­logue be­tween Ha­mas and Fatah.”

The ef­fort also rep­re­sents Egypt’s re­gion­wide drive to marginalise the Mus­lim Brother­hood

Reuters

Pales­tini­ans cel­e­brate in Gaza City after Ha­mas an­nounced it had reached a deal with ri­val Fatah

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