Fatah and Hamas have made significant progress in reconciliation talks held in Gaza and are now on the verge of implementing previously signed agreements, Palestinian media reported on Tuesday.
“Things are completely ready for ending the divide, and [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas is very optimistic that the reconciliation will soon be implemented,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah member sent by Abbas to Gaza late last week at the head of a delegation from Fatah’s Central Committee to hold talks with Hamas.
The two rival movements have been at loggerheads since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, a year after winning a landslide victory in national elections. A series of signed reconciliation agreements have not been implemented amid ongoing persecution of opposition members both by Hamas in Gaza and by Fatah in the West Bank.
Speaking to journalists in Gaza Monday evening, Shaath said that Hamas has agreed to the immediate formation of a “national consensus” government headed by Abbas, followed by legislative and presidential elections in six months. Elections are also to be held for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the PLO, in which Palestinian refugees living in the diaspora will take part.
Abbas is expected to send Azzam Al-Ahmad, the Fatah official responsible for talks with Hamas, to Gaza to discuss the implementation of the agreement, Shaath said.
Hamas, for its part, is concerned that some 55,000 of its civil servants working in Gaza will remain jobless following reconciliation with Fatah, the PA official daily Al-Ayyam reported, quoting “knowledgeable political sources.” Hamas would like to see these employees integrated into the PA’s bureaucracy, though Fatah has given no guarantee to that effect, the sources told the paper.
Referring to rumors regarding the content of a framework peace agreement to be presented by US Secretary of State John Kerry in the coming weeks, Shaath said that Abbas would not be able to accept a number of American conditions, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, leaving a certain number of settlers in the West Bank, and extending the Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.
“Negotiations will not be extended [beyond their original nine-month time-frame] if these conditions persist,” Shaath was quoted by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying. He warned, however, that Palestinians should be prepared for the eventuality that refusal to accept the American conditions would bring about a “cutting of the foreign aid which the PA relies on to fulfill its needs.”
Fatah attempts to block Dahlan
Talks with Hamas were not the only purpose of the high-profile Fatah visit to Gaza, however. The Ramallah-based movement is concerned over the growing influence of Mohammad Dahlan, a former Fatah member and once the head of Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip.
An Arafat loyalist, Dahlan was expelled from the movement in 2011 after his public criticism of Abbas for corruption led to accusations that he was plotting a coup against the Palestinian president. He fled to Dubai, but continues to enjoy a following among the rank and file of Fatah both in Gaza and in the West Bank.
According to Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily Al-Quds, the Fatah delegation headed by Shaath sent a harsh message to Fatah members in Gaza and the West Bank, warning them against cooperating with Dahlan. The movement summoned prominent supporters of Dahlan living in Ramallah, such as Sufian Abu Zaida and Majed Abu Shamala, and told them they must choose between working with Dahlan and remaining in the movement.
“Mohammed Dahlan is no longer a member of Fatah. He now works from an office in Dubai in the UAE under orders of UAE sheikhs, and moves as an Emirates citizen, receiving a budget from the UAE,” Shaath said.
Fatah’s leadership has also accused Dahlan of encouraging cooperation with Hamas in Gaza, a claim that Hamas’s deputy political bureau chief, Mousa Abu Marzouq, rushed to dismiss.
“Hamas denies the rumors regarding reconciliation with Dahlan,” Abu Marzouq wrote in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday. “In truth, the demands which we obliged in Gaza came from the reconciliation delegation headed by Azzam Al-Ahmad.”
Hamas remained largely mum on Tuesday on the prospect of imminent reconciliation with Fatah.