Mass Rallies Signal Fatah-Hamas Rapprochement, Not a New Intifada

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Despite all the recent headlines in the Israeli media predicting a third intifada, it seems that the events of the last weekend actually bear witness to a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas. Only later is there likely to be an escalation that could lead to a mass uprising.

On the ground, there has no doubt been a certain increase in unrest, with active encouragement from Hamas while the authorities turn a blind eye. Yet there has been no deterioration into mass incidents, and no loss of control.

On Friday, yet another huge rally took place under the aegis of Hamas, with thousands demonstrating in Hebron. That followed a similar rally in Nablus just two days earlier. On Saturday, Hamas staged yet another demonstration, in Qalqilyah. These rallies come just a few days after the Palestinian Authority agreed to let Hamas organize public events in the West Bank for the first time since the latter took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The weekend demonstrations were impressive in terms of number of participants. Nevertheless, Hamas' displays of strength remained in the thousands, not the tens of thousands, and to date, West Bank residents have refused its calls to start another intifada. There has been an increase in breaches of the peace in the West Bank, especially in the Hebron area, since the killing of a Palestinian youth brandishing what seemed to be a real pistol on Thursday, but it seems the PA is seeking to keep these events from spinning out of control into a real intifada. On Friday, Palestinian policemen even clashed with Hamas demonstrators who were attempting to approach Israeli checkpoints in the Hebron area.

The permits to demonstrate that Hamas received came at a price: Saturday, Fatah leaders in Gaza announced that they had received permission from Hamas to stage a demonstration in downtown Gaza City - the same place where Hamas' anniversary celebration took place - in early 2013, to mark the anniversary of Fatah's founding. It seems likely that both sides will make gestures in the coming days, such as reciprocal prisoner releases and discussions between leaders, along the lines of the phone call between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal.

On Saturday, a video clip was posted on YouTube in which all the political factions in Hebron purportedly pledged to work together against Israel. But the clip's source and reliability have yet to be confirmed.

A Palestinian holding a rocket during a Hamas 25 year rally in Hebron, December 14, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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