Last Saturday, 12th of June 2021, the factions’ meeting between Hamas and Fatah, hosted by Egypt in Cairo, ended before they had reconciled. Cairo informed the two sides of the meeting’s postponement. In fact, the failure of the meeting was expected in light of the increasing gap between both factions.
Written by: Dr. Ibrahim Sameeh Rabaya
Academic and researcher in political development and political economy
Last Saturday, the factions’ meeting between Hamas and Fatah, hosted by Egypt in Cairo, ended before they had reconciled. Cairo informed the two sides of the meeting’s postponement. In fact, the failure of the meeting was expected in light of the increasing gap between both factions.
Hamas came to this meeting equipped with ecstasy of victory in light of the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip and the accompanying international solidarity. Hamas believes that the resulting changes have produced opportunities for international acceptance as an independent player. Moreover, Hamas sees that its international outlets are no longer limited to Qatar and Turkey, as Egypt has become an important window in addition to some of the European and international breakthroughs that were achieved during the aggression.
Hamas further sees that it has the upper hand at the internal Palestinian negotiating table, which must respond to the new political realities. Accordingly, Hamas’ vision is summarized in the formation of a transitional framework that leads to the rebuilding of the PLO on agreed-upon rules that lead to the full reproduction of the political system. As for the interim, Hamas deems that the reconstruction file should be under its control, with the presence or limited partnership of the Palestinian National Authority.
As for Fatah and the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, they believe that they have regained a large part of their international presence after US President, Joseph Biden, contacted Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, along with the American and European high-level contact with the Palestinian leadership. Thus, the leadership sees that its priority is to restore the peaceful path with a broad international presence and preserve the existing political organization, while Hamas is a second player. Since the Palestinian leadership sees that the elections may break these rules of the game and lose Fatah the helm of leadership and direction, the appropriate option is to form a national unity government under the rules of the International Quartet, as the Palestinian President stated, and the Palestinian government to take over the reconstruction file as an official and exclusive channel for this file.
The internal Palestinian political sphere suffers from a state of sustained stagnation that has hindered the building of a solid, unified and inclusive political system. It is important to understand that this intractability is not the result of division and what has been produced since 2007, rather its roots go back to the beginnings of the institutionalization of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This was reflected in the Khartoum meeting in 1993, where the two delegations of Fatah, headed by the late President Yasser Arafat, and Hamas, headed by Dr. Musa Abu Marzouk, tried to search for Hamas’ entry into the PLO’s structures. Since then, there have been disputes over value, shares and space.
Today, the dispute has become structural, especially with the loss of the opportunity to hold the general elections that were postponed, which could have formed a barometer that measures the values of the central political players, especially Fatah and Hamas. The dispute today is not over two programs, in light of the rapprochement of visions between Fatah and Hamas on the general political framework, after Hamas approved its new political program in 2017. This rapprochement says that the dispute is over the center stage in the political system, and therefore what Hamas presented as a national vision goes beyond the necessity of holding elections as a source of political legitimacy and goes to reproducing legitimacy based on supreme consensus.
This state of impossibility is slowly shifting into pieces between two structures. With its approval of appointing a new head of its administrative committee, Hamas is preparing for the reconstruction program as an entrance point for its independence in Gaza. On the other hand, the Palestinian National Authority continues to exercise its role as a central political institution in the West Bank. As the gap grows, the questions of national liberation remain pending.
Perhaps it has become necessary to work in parallel tracks: 1. a path to restore confidence between the two parties that begins with a functional reconciliation, including service sectors, and to form a transitional legislative council that will pave the way for elections preceded by harmonizing the administrative structures, and 2. a gradual expansion towards the PLO and its institutions and departments. This requires pressure from civil society and a road map and a national rescue program that stops these successive losses, the price of which is paid by the citizen, the social contract and the national political system.
It is necessary to resort to such practical steps in order to answer the pressing questions of Palestinians, which are identity, citizenship and entity. The agreement on these steps between the two sides of the division unilaterally and away from popular participation, whose gateway represents the elections and the channels for framing popular policies through civil society, will exacerbate the discord that we are suffering from, keeping us captives of reaction, not action.