Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are waiting anxiously for the implementation of the Cairo Agreement expected to put an end to internal divisions between rival factions Fatah and Hamas.
Senior Fatah and Hamas officials agreed in the Egyptian-brokered deal, signed in Cairo on May 20, that the Palestinian electoral commission would start work in Gaza on May 27 and that consultations on a new interim “government of independents” would start the same day.
The new government would last for six months and will focus on preparing for the elections the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Steps towards implementing the agreement have already started with a meeting held Monday between electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser and Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza.
Nasser and Haniyeh agreed that updating voters’ lists in the Gaza Strip should start immediately, a step seen as a positive start to rapprochement between the two Palestinian factions.
Wassel Abu Yusuf, secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Front, said the agreement demonstrates that both Fatah and Hamas realized that reconciliation was not possible without compromises from both sides.
“Fatah and Hamas, as well as all Palestinian factions, have reached the conclusion that the situation in Palestine is deteriorating and that this will not change unless there is unity,” he said. “Only then can we put pressure on the international community to support the creation of a Palestinian state.”
Abu Yusuf commended Egypt’s efforts in brokering the agreement and bridging the gap between Fatah and Hamas.
“Egyptian intelligence managed to set a series of articles that bind both parties, the most important of which was working towards the formation of a new government and getting ready for elections. This had been a bone of contention between Fatah and Hamas for a long time.”
Khaled Musmar, Fatah member and head of the Political Committee at the Palestinian National Council, shared Abu Yusuf’s optimism.
“Fatah is keen on implementing the agreement and ending divisions through holding parliamentary and presidential elections, forming a reconciliatory government, and setting a national plan for resisting Israeli occupation,” he said.
On the other hand, several Palestinian observers expressed their concerns over the success of the agreement, especially in the light of the failure of earlier agreements.
According to Rabhi Halloum, executive director of the Global March to Jerusalem initiative and former Palestinian ambassador to the UAE, the majority of Palestinians were taken by surprise when they knew of the agreement.
“For them, those agreements have no credibility and they are tired of agreements that are not implemented and timelines that are not met,” he said.
For political analyst Nawaf al-Zarw, there are other factors that drove Fatah to engage in national reconciliation negotiations.
“Fatah decided to get closer to Hamas after negotiations with Israel had reached a dead end especially with the intensification of settlement construction,” he said.
This, Zarw added, was also coupled with the United States’ reluctance to put pressure on Israel or support a Palestinian bid for full membership at the United Nations.
“Fatah was left only with the choice of signing the agreement with Hamas.”
Reasons that drove Hamas to rapprochement with Fatah are mainly related to a real desire among the movement’s members to end the division, said political analyst Elian Elian.
“This is especially the case with the preliminary results of Hamas’s internal elections and in which the faction that favors reconciliation, under the leadership of Khaled Mashaal, is more likely to win,” he said.
Another factor, Elian added, is related to advice Hamas got from its umbrella group, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Brotherhood advised Hamas to go ahead with negotiations with Fatah now instead of waiting for the situation to settle down in Egypt.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)