Hamas And Fatah Sign Preliminary Reconciliation Deal Over Control Of Gaza Strip

Egyptian-brokered talks between rival Palestinian factions are being held under the direct auspices of Egyptian President  el-Sisi (the meeting was proposed and supported by President Trump.)

He [el-Sisi] wants a deal to permanently halt the movement of militants between Gaza and Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate has damaged Egypt’s tourist industry as well as the broader recovery El-Sisi wants to portray. Ending the rift in Palestinian ranks could also ease Gaza’s suffering and bolster their hand in future peace talks with Israel. Put together, they point to an assertive Egypt looking to reclaim its role as a regional powerhouse.

There’s the “sense of wanting to re-establish Egyptian leadership and foreign policy activism — putting Egypt back in its rightful place,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation in Washington. Bloomberg

Previous attempts at reconciliation between the two sides were unveiled with fanfare and declarations of unity, only to quickly end.

Pressure on Hamas

“The Egyptians have certainly put a lot of pressure on Hamas, but they’re under no illusions about the possibility of this agreement’s early demise,” Eran Lerman, a lecturer at Shalem College in Jerusalem and a former member of Israel’s National Security Council, said. Bloomberg

In June, Egpyt put pressure on Hamas to distance itself from Iran.  Egypt also demanded that Hamas not express support for Qatar.

Relations between Iran and Hamas cooled due to differences over the conflict in Syria.  In 2017, Iran agreed in principle to renew its funding for the Hamas terror group, stated the Times of Israel.

International largesse from Europe, American, NGOs… goes to the Palestinian Authority.   It is supposed to use the money for all the Palestinians including those in Gaza, which it uses it uses to assert authority in Gaza.

Beginning in April and during the summer the PA stopped paying the Gaza utility bills to Israel.  The PA also cut the pay by 30 percent of Gaza government officials and workers who do not work but have remained on the payroll.

Fatah then sent a stark message to Hamas: Reconcile and allow the Palestinian Authority to assume control in Gaza, or manage alone.

“Part of this is Abbas showing he is in control and he is the boss,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, an independent research institute in East Jerusalem. “The message to Hamas is: If you want to govern it, take it.”  NYTimes

Hamas holds few cards.   Egypt keeps the Rafah border crossing in Gaza mostly closed.   Qatar reduced funding to Hamas and Iran has only discussed the renewal of funding.

Preliminary  Deal

Hopes for the agreement, signed under the watchful eye of Egyptian intelligence, were tempered by the knowledge that many previous Palestinian initiatives have failed. Yet there is optimism that this time may be different, partly because the stakes are so much higher.

Hamas, which controls Gaza and has fought Israel three times, said it was ready to cede control of Gaza’s borders and allow the rival Palestinian Authority to effectively take over the day-to-day running of the territory.

It was a sobering reality check for a group that, despite years of fiery defiance and arms supplies from Iran, cannot rule Gaza without help from Fatah, the rival faction that controls the Palestinian Authority and was driven out of Gaza in violent clashes 10 years ago.

And for Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year-old president of the Palestinian Authority, it could amount to a legacy-saving moment in the twilight years of his rule, after years of abject failure to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. Although he was not in Cairo, Mr. Abbas gave his blessing to the deal, which he hailed as a “final agreement,” according to Agence France-Presse.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Israel “objects to any reconciliation that does not include” accepting international agreements, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. A Fatah-Hamas rapprochement would make “peace much harder to achieve,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a post on Facebook. “Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

At a brief ceremony on Thursday at the headquarters of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, which shepherded the negotiations, representatives from Hamas and Fatah kissed and embraced amid a smattering of applause from Egyptian and Palestinian officials gathered around them.

The Palestinians did not release the text of the agreement, and there was no mention of the thorny issues that remain unresolved, such as the fate of the main Hamas militia, or the network of tunnels under Gaza used by fighters and weapons smugglers.

But officials from both sides described a series of agreed measures that are due to unfold in the coming weeks, and which they say will both sideline Hamas from the day-to-day running of Gaza and create a political groundswell for a broader deal to reunite the Palestinian territories.  NYTimes

Egyptian sources reveal that seven points of agreement were hammered out:

  1. The two Palestinian parties will meet in one month to set out the date and modalities for elections to the presidency and parliament.
  2. Before then, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will spend a few days in the Gaza Strip, his first visit there in a decade since Hamas ousted his Fatah party in a military coup..
  3. A joint Palestinian Authority-Hamas commission will determine procedures for the merger of the PA and Gaza governing administrations. The future of the 60,000 people employed by the Gaza administration must also be decided.
  4. In the next two weeks, Hamas will transfer into Egyptian hands control of the Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip to Egyptian Sinai.
  5. The Palestinian Authority will take charge of the Rafah crossing from Egyptian officials – not directly from Hamas.
  6. Up until the parties come to terms on Gaza Strip’s electricity bill – which the Palestinian Authority has refused to cover for months – Egypt and Israel will provide the enclave with fuel for running the grid.
  7. The main sticking point in the reconciliation process – control of Hamas’ armed wing and arsenal – appears to have been left out of the deal signed Thursday. Hamas has consistently objected to foregoing or sharing control of its militia. Non-Egyptian sources report that the Palestinian Authority is to deploy 30,000 members of its security battalions to the Gaza Strip, but make no mention of coordination between the two forces. Cairo does not refer to this question. Debka

Fatah sources confirmed an agreement was reached, but provided no additional details.

A senior Palestinian official told French news agency AFP the agreement is set to include 3,000 Palestinian Authority police officers deployed in the Gaza Strip and near its border crossings with Israel and Egypt by November 1.

“This effectively means the Palestinian Authority would resume both security and civil responsibility (in Gaza)”, the official said.  YNet

 

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