Palestinian Affairs

Fatah: Delay in Unity Talks With Hamas ‘Not Helpful’

On-again off-again Palestinian unity talks between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions are off again for the near future:

Hamas has asked to postpone its next meeting with Hamas to ensure the talks will be positive, the party’s deputy politburo chief said Sunday. Mousa Abu Marzouq said in a statement that Hamas requested to delay the meeting scheduled to be held in Cairo on Wednesday. Fatah spokesman in Gaza, Fayez Abu Aita, said Hamas’ request was not helpful to reconciliation, and that the time frame set for national unity should be respected.

The two factions have been trying to reconcile since Hamas expelled Fatah authorities from the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 battle. More than 100 people were killed and more than 550 were wounded over a week of fighting that saw Hamas commit a variety of atrocities against Fatah loyalists, including shooting out their kneecaps and throwing them off buildings. Lingering bitterness over those tactics is among the barriers which have blocked reconciliation.

Palestinian officials said recently that reconciliation meetings in Cairo had fallen short of expectations, with some questioning whether either faction had the will to overcome political divisions. The comments were echoed yesterday by Ziad Abu Zayyad, a prominent West Bank columnist, Fatah member, and former Palestinian peace negotiator:

If we avoid getting into the game self-deception, it is possible to say with confidence that we are still far from achieving genuine national reconciliation and that the issue is much more complicated than some people think…

Reconciliation represents a kind of diplomatic catch-22 for the Palestinians. On one hand, bringing the Fatah-controlled West Bank and the Gaza Strip under a single government is viewed as a vital prerequisite to Palestinian pretentions toward statehood. The rebranded State of Palestine encompasses both territories, and having them under two separate governments is close to the definition of a failed state.

On the other hand, Hamas continues to insist that any unity government abrogate signed agreements in which the Palestinian Authority recognized the existence of Israel. Such a move would put the Palestinian Authority at odds with key international players, including the United States and Israel, who have conditioned critical economic assistance on the Palestinians living up to their past agreements.

[Photo: Soman / Wiki Commons]