Qatar is trying to help the Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas to mend their fences and reach a unity agreement, which has eluded them for a decade, the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported Monday.
After a string of secret meetings, preparations are underway for a public meeting of the two sides in the Qatari capital of Doha aimed at sealing an agreement, the report said.
Fatah controls the West Bank, while Hamas wields power in the Gaza Strip. The two groups have been at loggerheads almost constantly since Hamas won elections in the Palestinian Authority in 2006 and subsequently staged a violent takeover of Gaza.
Many meetings have been held over the years and three agreements were signed — in Qatar, Cairo and Gaza — but none has led to any real change on the ground.
The last unsuccessful attempt to form a national unity government in 2014 petered out in June.
Ramallah’s security agencies had continued arresting and harassing Hamas operatives in the West Bank unabated, while Hamas had placed hundreds of Fatah members in Gaza under house arrest, at times even shooting at its members. Media outlets for the competing factions defamed one another throughout the so-called period of reconciliation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked reconciliation efforts in the past, saying PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is affiliated with Fatah, had to choose between making peace with Israel or with Hamas. Israel, the US and the European Union view Hamas as a terrorist group.
Qatar is the latest would-be mediator. It stepped into the void after Egypt, which is at odds with Hamas, refused to host meetings between the two rival factions, Monday’s report said.
Sources told the newspaper that Fatah would send a delegation with broad authority headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, an aide to Abbas. Al-Ahmad is expected to bring new ideas for a national unity government. Abbas will only attend the talks if there is a breakthrough.
Khaled Mashaal, who heads Hamas’s political bureau, is already in Doha and, according to the newspaper, has received the green light to take decisions on critical issues.
Fatah Central Committee member Amal Hamad told Mawtini Radio — a station run by the Fatah Information and Culture Commission — on Saturday that Fatah’s central committee, chaired by Abbas, had discussed the issue on Saturday night, and that here was “a real invitation for the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements to form a serious national partnership,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.