Six years after fleeing Israel when accused of aiding Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, a former member of Knesset has found himself in the center of reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah.
Azmi Bishara mediated between the two Palestinians factions in talks held in Doha, Qatar, on December 12, the Maariv daily reported.
Bishara, a former Knesset member and founder of the Israeli-Arab Balad party, has been residing in Qatar since 2007. During the Second Lebanon War, Bishara was investigated by police for passing information about the IDF’s preparedness to Hezbollah agents and was allegedly compensated with hundreds of thousands of shekels by the terrorist group. The ex-MK was also accused of laundering funds.
Following the initial investigation, Bishara left Israel and told police and Shin Bet investigators he would return for a third round of questioning. However, the then-MK settled permanently in Qatar, and submitted his Knesset resignation from abroad.
The conference on December 12 was hosted by The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, a think tank founded by Bishara, and was aimed to foster dialogue between Fatah and Hamas on the subject of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as well as to generally improve relations between the two warring Palestinian factions. More than 200 top Palestinian politicians attended the event, including Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal and recently resigned chief negotiator with Israel Saeb Erekat.
“What matters here is that the Palestinian national project, represented in the Palestinian state, has become hostage to a political process of negotiations that is being accompanied by a staggering expansion of settlement designed to displace Palestinians,” Bishara stated in his opening address at the conference.
Tensions between the two rival factions have intensified since the reinstatement of the the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Hamas has repeatedly publicly come out against the peace talks, calling them “futile” and stating that it would not be bound by any agreement. “The PA has dealt the final blow to reconciliation talks, and Hamas will never accept the negotiation track and its result,” Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said on August 13.
Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since 2006, after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. Since then attempts at reconciliation, including a Cairo-brokered reconciliation agreement in 2011, and a Doha agreement in 2012, did not lead to a unity government between the two parties, as anticipated.