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Preliminary progress on reconciliation challenged by political strategy

Egypt's attempt at brokering reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has produced initial diplomatic progress. Yesterday's talks in Cairo – organised by President Mohammed Morsi, were an initiative towards constructing Palestinian unity within factions embracing divergent strategic tactics. Unity, however, remains embroiled in a battle between different political organisations which have pivoted to a higher degree of prominence within the political sphere.  Both Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal retain unyielding stances which hinder the implementation of reconciliation.

In the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defence, the political feud between Hamas and Fatah altered slightly, with both sides supporting recent gains in political recognition. Fatah recognised Hamas' military accomplishment and its ability to broker a ceasefire veering towards Palestinians' interests. Abbas' request for non-member state recognition was also supported by Hamas. Palestine's recognition at the UN infuriated Israel and its allies, who continue to exhaust security rhetoric and retaliated with further settlement development. Both Hamas and Fatah have allowed celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank, a reciprocal gesture which brought respective supporters in the territories out in the streets. However, despite these triumphs in a relatively short period, Hamas and Fatah have failed to agree on the process of liberation for Palestinians.

In a way, Hamas may be viewed as battling both the Israeli occupation as well as additional oppression in the form of Fatah's security coordination agreement with Israel.  Entrenched within the Oslo Accords, security coordination has been viewed by Hamas as an agreement to collaborate with Israel in persecuting Palestinian activists who further the resistance for liberation.  The detention of Hamas activists in the West Bank is a source of contention for both sides. Whilst signifying oppression against political freedom for Hamas, the Palestinian Authority deems the arrests necessary for ensuring stability.

Abbas' immediate concern is strengthening his authority over the West Bank – an aim which is rooted in compromise to the detriment of Palestinians in return for privileges bestowed upon the authority.  The dependence upon international aid is another reason for avoiding confrontation with the Israeli occupation – a strategy based upon talks, concessions and international diplomacy is preferred over actively seeking to improve living conditions by securing alternative funding.

Having rejected the Oslo Accords, Hamas has proved itself resilient against the occupation and also pledged to fight colonial practices through any possible means of resistance, including armed resistance. The liberation of Palestine is not limited to lifting the illegal blockade on Gaza, but rather encompasses a definition of national identity.

The Egyptian government has declared it will further its efforts to bolster an actual reconciliation. However, it is up to both Hamas and Fatah to reach an agreement which would enhance the prospects of unity in governance. It is unclear whether Abbas will relinquish his status in order to allocate further political power to Hamas, despite the fact that popular discontent with policies and practices in the West Bank continues to surface. A battle between diplomacy and military triumphs, it seems there is a lot more at stake for Abbas if alternative solutions to the PA's dependence upon security and international aid are not achieved.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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