Hamas chief holding rounds of talks in Beirut, will meet with Hezbollah head

Ismail Haniyeh entered Lebanon for the first time in 27 years this week, with talks with officials, Nasrallah on the docket; will take part in videoconference with Abbas

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh meets with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Beirut on September 2, 2020 (Credit: al-Resalah)
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh meets with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Beirut on September 2, 2020 (Credit: al-Resalah)

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Beirut this week to conduct meetings with the leaders of other Palestinian factions in advance of a much-touted “meeting of Palestinian secretaries-general,” set to take place Thursday evening in Ramallah.

Haniyeh met with Palestinian Islamic Jihad head Ziyad al-Nakhalah on Wednesday night. The meeting with al-Nakhalah discussed, among other issues, the recent deal to normalize ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“The meeting stressed the importance of communication and coordination between them to confront aggression and confront plots, especially the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the Trump peace plan), colonial annexation plans, normalization projects and attempts to tighten and legitimize the siege of Gaza,” Haniyeh’s office said in a statement.

Haniyeh also met with a number of Lebanese officials, including Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Acting Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Hamas official Osama Hamdan announced on Wednesday night that Haniyeh would meet with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in the coming days.

Haniyeh was last in Lebanon in 1993, after Israel banished 415 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives to Lebanon for a period of 1.5-2 years. The exile was eventually shortened after pressure from the Clinton administration and debate within Israel over whether the action was legal. The United Nations Security Council also condemned the mass deportation at the time, calling it a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Along with a number of Palestinian factions based in Beirut, Haniyeh will also participate by videoconference in a planned meeting of Palestinian leaders hosted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday.

The planned meeting, which will include Abbas, Haniyeh, and al-Nakhalah, has been getting a lot of traction in Palestinian state media. Both Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub and Palestinian Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat have released statements promoting the event as an important step toward national unity.

The last time Haniyeh and Abbas met in person was in Qatar in October 2016, although the two leaders occasionally speak over the phone. Palestinian officials have conducted several reconciliation negotiations since Hamas violently expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, all ultimately unsuccessful.

Despite grand statements about the importance of reconciliation, this summer’s round of press conferences and meetings between Hamas and Fatah has borne little fruit. Promised “on-the-ground cooperation” to thwart Israeli intentions to annex parts of the West Bank has failed to materialize. The annexation plans were suspended last month as part of Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE.

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