Egypt pushing for Abbas to accept ‘graded reconciliation’ with Hamas — report

Sissi wants Palestinian leader to back ceasefire deal as part of agreement that would see PA eventually regain control of Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (center, left) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (center, left) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has reportedly urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a “graded reconciliation” with Hamas as part of a deal that would see the 82-year old take control of the Gaza Strip.

Meeting on Saturday in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh, Sissi encouraged Abbas to back the terms of an emerging ceasefire agreement aimed at calming months of violence on the Israel-Gaza border, Hadashot news reported Saturday night.

The deal, first reported by Lebanon’s Al-Akbar newspaper on Friday, would last for three years and see a significant easing of the Egyptian and Israeli blockades on the Hamas-controlled territory.

In order to guarantee the success of the deal, Sissi wants Abbas to take responsibility for paying state salaries in the Strip, to back a UN infrastructure plan for the beleaguered territory and to accept a “gradual” plan for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, according to Hadashot news.

Firstly, “Sissi is pressuring [Abbas] to back the plan for calm by agreeing to pay salaries and to take the responsibility for Qatar passing funds to Hamas leaders in the Strip,” Hadashot analyst Ehud Yaari said.

Within the framework of the agreement, the Palestinian Authority would pay 80 percent of the salaries of Hamas officials in Gaza, and would not object to Qatar bankrolling those wages for at least six months, like it has in the past, Al-Akbar reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

“The next stage,” Yaari said, “is to for him to back [United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay] Mladenov’s plan for developing the infrastructure in the Strip because donor countries won’t be willing to give money directly to Hamas and need the Palestinian Authority as an intermediary.”

Finally, Sissi wants Abbas to agree to a “graded reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas that will eventually bring Abbas back to Gaza,” Yaari said, stressing that such a deal would not give the PA immediate military control over Gaza but would begin a process aimed at restoring its governing of the territory.

Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the two rival parties for separate talks in the past several weeks.

In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to advance reconciliation and bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government, but they failed to implement it.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.

Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.

Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have said Fatah-Hamas reconciliation should precede any possible ceasefire. They have also contended that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole party with the legitimacy to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.

Egyptian intelligence officials joined Palestinians protesting in the border region between Israel and Gaza on Friday, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya told the London-based Al-Ghad TV.

Illustrative: Protesters wave Palestinian flags while riding a truck full with tires near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel during a protest east of Gaza City, Friday, October 26, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

Friday’s rally was largely peaceful. Hayya said the protests were scaled down to give the ceasefire efforts a chance, according to the Associated Press.

The protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place weekly since March 30. Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands which are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Hayya suggested efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had been making progress.

“Their success is becoming visible in the horizon,” he told Al-Ghad TV, referring to the efforts to conclude a ceasefire.

On Saturday, the Egyptian Intelligence officials left Gaza through the Erez crossing, according to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center.

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