The Palestinian factions have responded to the invitation from the Egyptian Intelligence Services to hold a meeting in Cairo tomorrow. Will this be one more step in the Palestinian Authority's path to impose its control on the Gaza Strip, which it lost 10 years ago, thus regaining all of its responsibilities there? The meeting agenda focuses on supporting what has already been achieved in this regard, and addressing and resolving postponed issues, such as security and PA employees in Gaza.
All of this is in order to achieve what the official leadership in Ramallah is demanding: one authority, one leadership and one weapon. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah stated recently that the security issue has not been resolved in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the PA government has been handed control of the border crossings in accordance with the reconciliation agreement.
One member of the Fatah Central Committee, Jamal Moheisen, has said that the elections and Palestine National Council are at the top of the list of issues to be discussed by the factions. The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said that his movement would participate in the meeting to support the reconciliation efforts and begin comprehensive dialogue in order to address all issues of concern to the Palestinians. According to an official source in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the invitation was extended to discuss the end of the division, the restoration of internal unity and the rearrangement of domestic Palestinian affairs, including legislative and executive institutions and the political programme, in a manner providing the tools and capabilities needed to address the future political responsibilities.
These statements were made despite the fact that the first phase of implementing the agreement between Fatah and Hamas over the past two months, including the handing over of the crossings and all ministries, was not promising due to statements and actions by PA officials. This was after having overcome obstacles that were the conditions imposed by the PA in Ramallah, causing the process to stall with no convincing reason. So far, the practical steps taken to end the division have been made by Hamas alone. Moreover, officials in the PA's executive and political institutions are acting like victors, demanding Hamas to surrender; they believe that the steps taken by PA President Mahmoud Abbas over the past few months regarding Gaza have suffocated Hamas and forced the movement to hand over the besieged territory. This is not conducive to completing the steps required to end the division.
Apart from the motives of Fatah and Hamas behind the reconciliation, and those of Egypt's Intelligence Services, the upcoming meeting between the factions in Cairo has a special responsibility attached to it unrelated to whatever the Egyptians have agreed upon with Fatah and Hamas regarding the situation in Gaza.
There seems to be high hopes for the meeting, which may end this black chapter in the history of the Palestinian people and their national cause. However, there are serious obstacles hindering it, and it will remain susceptible to failure or setbacks if it stays within the same context of Egyptian Intelligence—Hamas—Fatah. What will actually support it, strengthen it and allow it to move forward and achieve what is desired, is for the reconciliation to turn into a national agreement that includes all of the influential and active forces in the Palestinian arena. The Cairo meeting provides an opportunity for this to happen.
If some of those responsible for the reconciliation issue and those concerned in Ramallah continue to deal with the issues from a victors' point of view, and insist upon limiting the matter to simply regaining control of the Gaza Strip and ending Hamas's control there, then that makes them a parallel authority which disregards national interests. As long as the factions are invited to the meeting in Cairo, they can play a positive role in support of the reconciliation and make sure that it is truly a national deal by removing it from the current context. It must be moved to the point where it can be built upon to implement the national Palestinian reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo in late 2011 and address the postponed issues based on this narrative.
The Palestinian political situation needs someone to put it back on the national track, from which it has deviated since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Perhaps the absence and failure of the prospects that were once envisaged by those engaged in the agreement — after a quarter of a century of negotiations and the inability to establish an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, on the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967 — will help this. The factions have collectively taken an important step to put the Palestinian situation back on track, by means of dialogue amongst themselves, which was crowned with the national reconciliation agreement, which has received the support of all the Palestinian political and civil society forces.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 20 November 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.