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The Palestinian secretaries-general meeting - A possible turning point? 

September 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Jibril Rajoub, Secretary General of Fatah‘s Central Committee (FCC)

The Palestinian secretaries-general meeting that took place a few days ago in Ramallah and Beirut may have a better opportunity for success, compared to previous political reconciliation initiatives. This opportunity has come because of the genuine desire of Hamas and Fatah to reconcile. The Fatah movement initiated this latest move without any intervention from outside mediators. Hamas welcomed the Fatah gesture, and both parties were keen to allow this initiative to succeed. They demonstrated a large degree of flexibility and worked together to remove obstacles from their paths. The final statement of the meeting was approved without any opposition from the 16 Palestinian factions, despite not being consistent with their respective political programs.

The secretaries-general meeting was one of an accelerated series of reconciliation encounters between Fatah and Hamas that started two months ago. The first encounter was the 2 July press conference between Jibril Rajoub, secretary of the Fatah movement’s Central Committee, and Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas politburo. This event was followed by mass meetings in Jericho and Turmus Ayya in the West Bank, in parallel with sessions in Gaza. Before these meetings, a leadership meeting attended by all of the Palestinians factions was held under President Mahmoud Abbas in Al-Muqata. This last meeting paved the way for the secretaries-general meeting, and was considered a turning point in internal Palestinian politics.

The idea behind the secretaries-general meeting is not a new one. It relates to the unified leadership framework of 2009 which mainly consisted of Palestinian factions. This framework, which was established to achieve unification, was met only once in 2011. While the unified leadership framework was established to end the split and create cohesion, the secretaries-general meeting was held to confront existential threats to the Palestinian cause and people, as illustrated by the US President Donald Trump deal of the century, the Israeli annexation plan and the Israel-United Arab Emirates (UAE) declaration for normalisation, while also with an agenda for Palestinian harmony.

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This new-found Palestinian unity will help the Palestinian leadership to fight this political battle with more confidence. In addition, the Hamas movement cannot abandon their responsibility to be a part of this vital battle. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), controlled by the Fatah movement, could accept the national and political position of Hamas within the Palestinian leadership decision-making process in general, or within the structure of the PLO in particular. Hamas wanted to be represented in the PLO in a way that reflect its national and political weight, in addition to amending the political PLO program. The secretaries-general meeting has acknowledged the factions’ political role in Palestinian decision-making.

The current efforts between Fatah and Hamas to reach understandings have neutralised the negative effects of the interference by their allies in the region. Iran, which stands against the US policy in the Middle East and is also against Israeli dominance, has this time supported Palestinian amity. Turkey condemned the Trump deal of the century, the Israeli annexation and the UAE normalisation plan, so it also stands with the Palestinian decision for unity. Generally, Turkey and Qatar oppose UAE policy in the region. The Israeli-Emirati normalisation came to enhance the Palestinian merger that has been supported by Turkey.

The new level of understandings between Fatah and Hamas could open the door to a new Palestinian political era of cooperation. This was reflected in the final statement of the secretaries-general meeting which stressed that the first meeting should be held only between Fatah and Hamas. It is essential to find the mechanisms for coexistence after more than a decade of Palestinian division. It remains to be seen whether the establishment of the resistance, reconciliation and PLO committees by the secretaries-general meeting will succeed on this occasion to overcome all the obstacles that faced past attempts for reconciliation.

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The Palestinian efforts are a main pillar for a strong Palestinian position to counter any Israeli scheme against the Palestinian people. The rapprochement will not only end the political division, but will allow for the reunification of Palestinian society. Israel will try as usual to frustrate the endeavour, especially with its profound ability to divide the Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, with its control as an occupying power. It can also succeed to incite several countries, especially the Western ones, to boycott any Palestinian government that includes ministers of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, similar to the 2007 national unity government. On the other hand, Palestinians, combined with the reconciliation and united decision within the PLO, can distribute the national missions between the Palestinians inside and outside Palestine, and can learn from past experiences not to lose the international community and the Western world.

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