Abbas to Meet al-Sissi in Cairo Under Shadow of Rift With Hamas

Palestinian President and Egyptian counterpart to discuss opening of Rafah crossing at Gaza-Egypt border, settlement activity in West Bank

Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's Sissi meet in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2014.
Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's Sissi meet in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2014. AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi will meet on Sunday.

The two leaders will discuss regional developments, including stepped up settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank, according to a Palestinian news agency. But for Abbas, the real issue of the day is warming relations between Egypt, Hamas and political rival Mohammed Dahlan. 

The meeting will take place in the shadow of a worsening crisis between Hamas' leadership in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. 

According to a senior Palestinian official, Abbas will warn about the possible implications of opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza without coordinating it first within the PA. Egypt has the right to protect its national security, the source said, but it should not make moves that could distance the West Bank and the Strip.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian government in Ramallah decided to issue early retirement to 6,145 PA officials in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian spokesman said this was another step taken by the Palestinian government regarding the Gaza Strip, adding that they are temporary and depend on Hamas giving up its rule in Gaza and allowing the PA to take over.

Other recent PA measures included cutting the pay of PA employees in Gaza, suspending payments to prisoners, reducing payments for electricity that Israel provides, and restricting funding for medical treatments for Gazan residents in Israeli and West Bank hospitals.

Two days ago, a delegation headed by Yahya Sinwar of top Hamas officials left Gaza for Cairo to continue talks on recently reached understandings. Hamas is hopeful that negotiations with Egypt will culminate in the permanent reopening of Rafah crossing point, the only border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Egypt, for its part, has not made any specific statements or promises. Cautious of political significance, Cairo does not want to present Hamas as sovereign to not only negotiate security agreements, as is the case today, but political agreements as well.