A delegation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party will leave Saturday evening for Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, for a meeting with Khaled Meshal, the head of the political bureau of the rival Palestinian Hamas movement. The meeting is yet another effort to reconcile the rival Palestinian movements.
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Fatah and the Palestinian Authority government were ousted from the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007 following parliamentary elections the year before that Fatah lost, creating the current split. The two sides understand that they must agree on a formula that will ultimately result in reconciliation, a senior Fatah official told Haaretz, because "Fatah's strategy with Israel has failed and Hamas has also not been providing answers regarding its own strategy to the Palestinians in Gaza."
Since 2007, there have been repeated attempts at reconciliation, including the signing of formal agreements between the two sides in Mecca, Cairo and Doha, but they were never implemented.
The centerpiece of the new initiative is a proposed Palestinian national unity government rather than a government of technocrats, the Fatah figure said, laying the groundwork for presidential and parliamentary elections within six months after that.
The tense security situation and internal pressures have led the two sides to undertake the new talks, but there is a sense in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that the renewed talks are not likely to proceed quickly. That's because the two sides have been digging in their heels on their positions regarding control of the two territories. The nub of the controversy relates to control over border crossings in the Gaza Strip and employment arrangements for police forces in Gaza and the 40,000 Hamas government bureaucrats there.
Senior Hamas official Ahmed Bahar announced on Tuesday at a Gaza news conference marking 10 years since Israel imposed its siege on the Strip that the new initiative will also include a gathering of representatives of Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions to advance "a national Palestinian strategy that will assist the side to promote reconciliation."
The new effort comes about three months after the most recent contacts between the two sides. An official meeting of delegations from Hamas and Fatah was held in Beirut in October. Abbas and Meshal have not met, however, since the summer of 2014, although they spoke by phone in September of last year. In April of 2014, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a government of technocrats that didn't manage to advance the issues in dispute between the two sides.