Fatah Delegation Heads to Cairo to Discuss Palestinian Reconciliation Deal With Hamas

PA leaning towards supporting Egyptian proposal, which Hamas has also endorsed

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prays during the Fatah Central Committee meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 29, 2018.
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

A Fatah delegation left for Cairo on Sunday to meet senior Egyptian intelligence officials and respond to a document the Egyptians had presented to promote reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

According to Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee who headed the delegation, the PA is leaning towards supporting the Egyptian proposal. Hamas gave Egypt its agreement earlier this month.

>> Analysis: Egypt signals cautious optimism as it mediates Hamas-Israel talks over Gaza

On the eve of the delegation's departure, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that his position had not changed since 2011, and that the PA should take full control over the Gaza Strip, not partial. 

Senior Fatah officials told Haaretz that Abbas and other senior officials do not want to appear to reject the Egyptian document. In light of this, their intention was to cooperate in an attempt to advance reconciliation. A senior Fatah official said that the PA was monitoring the efforts by Egypt and UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov and did not want to be left out of the process.

Hamas' agreement to the plan also stemmed from a desire not to be seen as collaborating with the gesture that the United States is trying to advance, in which the Gaza Strip will receive a form of political status, thereby severing it from the West Bank.

Hamas and other factions in the Gaza Strip added that the cease-fire proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also not a solution. According to them, the information they have points to an old formula of easing the blockade in return for quiet, without any political prospects.

According to the outline proposed by Egypt, Hamas politburo member Moussa Abu Marzouk said, the PA will lift the sanctions it has imposed on Gaza and the PA ministers will return to their offices in the Gaza Strip. The plan promotes the establishment of a unity government and a meeting of PLO institutions with Hamas participation. The Egyptian proposal is based on the reconciliation agreement signed by the parties in 2017. The Egyptian outline does not refer to Hamas' military wing, and disarming it is not on the agenda. According to Marzouk, the proposal ensures the integration of Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip into PA offices.

In Egypt, pressure is being exerted to promote reconciliation, in the belief that it will ease tensions in the Gaza Strip. In addition, the proposal will give Hamas the option of making a decision to stop the incendiary balloons and kites and significantly reduce the weekly protests at the Gaza border fence that began in March.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, when Hamas defeated Fatah and then took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, efforts have been made to reach reconcilliation, the last of which was achieved in October last year.

The PA began imposing its most recent round of sanctions on Gaza in April 2017 in response to Hamas establishing in March an administrative committee to run Gaza independently, which the PA considers a shadow government. In order to exert pressure on Hamas to dismantle the committee, the PA stopped paying for the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip that Israel controls, cut the salaries of the Gaza government by 30 percent to 50 percent, froze some of their benefits and decreased by 80 percent the number of people allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

In July 2017, the Palestinian government in Ramallah announced its intention to impose early retirement on 6,145 public sector employees age 50 and above, who receive their salary from the Palestinian Authority. The figure represents more than half of the 11,000 public sector employees who continued to work in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007 and they include essential services such as education and health. 

Hamas announced in September 2017 that it would dismantle the administrative committee it had established but pending the implementation of the reconciliation agreement, PA sanctions continue.

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Mladinov will meet Sunday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as the Fatah delegation arrives in Cairo.

According to the report, Mladinov will present a plan that involves Israel will remove the trade restrictions in the Kerem Shalom border crossing and will expand the fishing areas while Hamas will commit to the ceasefilre, including the burning balloons. At a second phase, Hamas will disclose additional details on the fate of the Israeli soldiers it holds in exchange for additional relief measures and the advancement of projects in the Gaza Strip that will ensure an improvement in the humanitarian situation.

However, according to the report, Hamas insists that all information about the soldiers must ensure the release of prisoners from the Shalit deal that Israel released and re-arrested.

According to the report, Mladinov warned all sides that the collapse of the plan could lead to a head-on collision between Israel and Hamas.