With unity talks between Hamas and Fatah set to resume in Cairo next week, Hamas is still insisting on maintaining its armed wing in Gaza, and claiming that the ongoing arrests of its members in the West Bank may jeopardize the entire process.
Khalil Al-Haya, a member of Hamas’s negotiation team, told an audience in Gaza Tuesday that reconciliation with Fatah will never include the abandonment of the armed struggle against Israel.
“The reconciliation agreement includes the right of resistance for the Palestinian people, criminalizing security cooperation with the occupation,” Haya was quoted as saying by the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center. “Hamas cannot even accept talk about touching the weapons of resistance.”
The two movements, he said, agreed to form a transitional government headed by Palestinian Authority President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas and comprised of independent ministers, unaffiliated with either group.
The PA’s security coordination with Israel and the issue of “political arrests” by Fatah remain two of the thorniest issues on the table between the rival Palestinian movements. Haya said that the security issue will be postponed until after national elections, to be held six months after the formation of the transitional government.
Youssef Rizqa, an adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Ma’an news agency on Wednesday that reconciliation talks could be derailed if “the practical atmosphere isn’t put in place for it,” a clear reference to Fatah’s arrests of Hamas members and continued criticism of the Hamas government in Gaza.
On Tuesday, Abbas attacked the Hamas government over the visit of the Malaysian prime minister in Gaza, claiming it hampered Palestinian reconciliation efforts.
Ido Zelkovitz, an expert on Palestinian politics at Haifa University, said that the postponement of the security issue until the end of the reconciliation process actually indicates the seriousness of both sides regarding national unity.
“Both sides understand that the sovereign power will be the one who maintains the weapons,” Zelkovitz told the Times of Israel. He added that both Hamas and Fatah have made significant concessions during the last two months to push reconciliation forward.
Fatah agreed to forgo its initial demand to postpone the formation of a unity government until after the elections. Hamas, for its part, agreed to accept Abbas as transitional prime minister, a move that would leave him with unprecedented powers as both PA president and head of government.
Hamas’s inclusion in the PLO is another issue to be discussed only after the elections, “following the emergence of a legitimate leadership that will represent the Palestinian people.
Zelkovitz said that Hamas’s joining the PLO is primarily an interest of the Islamist movement, entailing international legitimacy, control of powerful positions, and new sources of funding.
“I believe the ascendancy to the PLO is the most essential issue as far as Hamas is concerned,” Zelkovitz said.