Hamas Delegation Makes Unplanned Visit to Cairo as Egypt Seeks to Clinch Palestinian Reconciliation

Palestinian Authority hopes international pressure will convince Hamas to hand over control of Gaza, which the group has rejected before

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with the Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khaled Meshal (C) and the vice Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh (L) in Doha, Qatar on October 28, 2016.
Handout / Palestinian Presidency

A delegation of senior Hamas officials arrived in Cairo on Monday at the request of Egyptian intelligence officials, as part of the efforts to promote reconciliation between the organization and the Palestinian Authority.

A Hamas official in Gaza said the visit by the delegation hadn’t been planned but that the Egyptians had demanded that a delegation come to Cairo, following the response that Fatah officials had given to the Egyptian initiative to advance reconciliation.

A Fatah official told Haaretz that his movement had responded positively to the Egyptian initiative but had offered a number of comments and objections, to which Egypt had to obtain Hamas’ response.

The PA continues to insist that Hamas hand over power in the Gaza Strip, which the group has rejected in the past. “The PA’s position as presented by Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] including during the past few days is very clear and calls first and foremost to give the government complete control over the Gaza Strip and to move forward from there,” said the Fatah official. “We made it clear to Egypt that this time we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past and that Hamas will have to decide – either accept the outline with our comments or there is no reconciliation.” 

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One of the issues in dispute is the PA demand that the current government return to control in the Gaza Strip and start working from the point where it left a few months ago after the assassination attempt against PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

The PA is hoping that international pressure on the one hand and the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on the other will force Hamas to compromise in several areas. Authorities believe that a breakthrough in talks can be achieved if the PA agrees to include Hamas officials in its government institutions, Egypt provides guarantees, sanctions are removed, and a unity government is formed. 

But those in Abbas's orbit and in Ramallah believe chances for progress are low. Fatah official Mahmoud Alallu described the talks on Monday as an attempt to move a stuck cart, as he put it.

The Egyptian plan speaks of promoting reconciliation in stages and according to a specific timetable that will begin with the lifting of the PA’s sanctions and the formation of a national unity government; a solution to the problem of Hamas officials and the transfer of collection mechanisms and the judicial system in the Gaza Strip to the government, and advancing projects to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. At a later stage there will be integration of Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO’s institutions by convening a national council of all the factions from which the PLO institutions would be chosen and steps will be taken to advance elections in the West Bank and Gaza.