Palestinian Unity Deal: Features and Consequences for the Region

The unity deal between Fatah and Hamas signs the end of a ten year feud between the parties. Its long term consequences are not clear yet, but the region’s power are reassessing their positions as to tailor new opportunities to influence the regional dynamics. 

Palestinian Unity Deal: Features and Consequences for the Region -

The reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas has not surprised the international community: ten years after Hamas’ coup in Gaza and the various political, military, and energy crisis that have affected the strip, the deal was a long waited step. Its real implications of the official control of the Palestinian Authority over Gaza though are still uncertain.

The Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel managed to have a copy of the agreement (translated in English):

In the name of God the Merciful,

An agreement by the Fatah and Hamas movements to end Palestinian division:

Based on the importance of cementing the principle of national partnership and giving priority to the public interest to achieve the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people to end the division, to strengthen the national front and national unity, in order to fulfil the national project and end the occupation and establish a sovereign Palestinian state on all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees, with a full commitment to the Basic Law, to maintain a single democratic and pluralistic political system, with a peaceful transfer of power through elections, and the protection of independent national Palestinian decision-making and respect for the sovereignty of states, and to welcome all assistance to the Palestinian people for reconstruction and development through the Palestinian government.

Fatah and Hamas held a series of meetings on October 10-11, 2017, under Egyptian auspices in Cairo, to discuss the issues of national reconciliation. The two movements agreed on the following:

(1) Completing procedures to enable the National Reconciliation Government (the Palestinian Authority) to fully exercise its functions and carry out its responsibilities in Gaza as it does in the West Bank by December 1, 2017.

(2) For the legal/administrative committee formed by the National Reconciliation Government to quickly find a solution to the issue of Gaza’s [government] employees, before the 1st of February, 2018, with the participation of experts and specialists knowledgeable of the Gaza Strip. While the committee works, the government will pay employees their salaries as paid to them currently effective November 2017, once the government is able to carry out its administrative and financial powers, including tax collection.

(3) Completing the process of allowing the National Consensus Government to take over all crossings of the Gaza Strip, including enabling Palestinian Authority staff to manage these crossings in full by January 11, 2018.

(4) Leaders of the official security services operating in the State of Palestine will go to the Gaza Strip to discuss ways and mechanisms for rebuilding the security services with relevant parties.

(5) A meeting will be held in Cairo during the first week of December 2017 to assess what progress has been achieved regarding the agreed upon issues.

(6) A meeting will be held on November 14, 2017, for all Palestinian factions that signed the agreement on “Palestinian National Accord” on May 4, 2011, to discuss all the reconciliation items mentioned in the agreement.

The agreement is still a work in progress and lays on unstable grounds as the parties are trying to play a part over its interpretation, but the moving of offices and personnel is slowly taking place.

The gestation of the agreement has been long: one of the main issues was the disarming of Hamas’ military wing. At the end Hamas had the upper hand over Fatah, but pledged to return to an armed struggle against Israel only with the political “go ahead” from the Palestinian Authority. This is a double edge sword for Abu Mazen, as long as he will be the president: while on one side he will have the final word, on the other he will have to deal with his share of responsibilities in case of return to arms and violence.

The deal was brokered by Egypt under the official auspices of president Al-Sissi, that has expressed the hope “to achieve an independent Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital and a return for Palestinian refugees.”

The long term consequences are not clear yet though: one of these could be Hamas joining the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) following reforms by both the PLO and Hamas. The essence of these reforms though have not been made clear. It does not surprise though that each party is presently trying to raise the bar, just as it must not surprise that Hamas is re-stating its mission to “wipe out Israel.” Another long term consequence concerns the possibility for one of Hamas’ representatives to run for the PA’s presidency. On the matter, Khaled Meshal (former Hamas political chief) is said to be considering the option of running for PA president. At the same time, though, in order to join the PLO and run for the PA presidency, Hamas should change its agenda and accept all the agreements signed so far between the PA and Israel. This is probably the hardest point for the movement, one that requires cold calculation: to give up its agenda and subsequently cut ties with States and organisations that are openly against the existence of Israel and have supplied it with weapons, funds, and military assistance, such as Iran and Hezbollah, or transform itself in a party with a political role similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon, becoming a major decision makers in the official Palestinian for a while still preserving its military assets. This last option seems the more plausible, as it would also receive the tacit agree by Iran. Several regional dynamics are moving around this deal.

Egypt has created for itself an opportunity to re-brand its positions regionally after its image has been strongly damaged by the harsh silencing of its opposition parties and its military interventions in Libya and other parts of the region.

Israel and Jordan have shown deep perplexities over the deal: while none of them intend to stop cooperation with the PA, none of them is willing to accept Hamas playing a role in the authority without changing its agenda and accepting all the agreements signed so far. They have both said though they will carefully analyse the deal in due time. Saudi Arabia and Iran are tacitly supporting the deal. In the near future Saudi Arabia will try to influence and strengthen Fatah’s role, while Iran will back and strengthen Hamas’ positions and commit to a stronger support in terms of weapons and funds as to preserve its transformation in a Hezbollah style party.

It is too early to express an opinion about the deal. Its full implementation is still in the air. In the past the region has already witnessed similar situations and in most cases they ended as a failure. While Fatah and Hamas are currently battling for its interpretation, the regional powers are reassessing their positions and influence.