by: Elior Levy
Wednesday, 30 September 2020 | The normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and Bahrain, coupled with the silent support of most of the members of the Arab League, have pushed Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas to look for fresh allies, even to the extent of embracing bitter rival Hamas [the terror group controlling the Gaza Strip].
The new rapprochement began in recent weeks with a video conference between senior Fatah [leading Palestinian political party] member Jibril Rajoub and Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri.
It continued with a virtual meeting of all Palestinian factions, during which many prominent Palestinian leaders took the stage, including Abbas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad [second largest terror group in the Gaza Strip] leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah.
It culminated in talks on Tuesday, when Fatah and Hamas officials began a round of face-to-face meetings in the Turkish capital of Istanbul.
As a show of the importance of the new association, each organization dispatched top-tier members to Turkey. Fatah sent Rajoub and former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Rawhi Fattouh, while Hamas chose to keep the identity of its representatives under wraps, most likely for security reasons.
The two organizations have held multiple meetings over the last decade, signing various reconciliation agreements with solemn, ceremonious declarations. But so far, these agreements have been on paper only and not been implemented in reality.
Now, however, both Fatah and Hamas claim that this time is different.
Even so, a number of sources said that despite the optimistic spirit of the two parties, the first day of the Turkey talks did not end with a reconciliation agreement or even with a joint statement.
While Hamas demanded elections across all Palestinian institutions—presidency, Parliament and Palestinian National Council—Fatah insisted on gradual voting, and first holding parliamentary elections only.
Another dispute between the parties concerned the method of elections.
Hamas wanted to form a unity government before the election in order to maintain transparency, but Fatah preferred to leave the current government in its current formulation and only form a new government after the elections.
Hamas was suspicious of Abbas’s intentions, fearing he was only trying to give [himself] legitimacy to remain president without offering the group anything in return.
Fatah, on the other hand, feared that Hamas would not actually hand over control of government ministries in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and even falsify election results due to its grip on the Strip.
These talks between Fatah and Hamas, which on Thursday night led to an announcement of an agreement on holding elections, held further significance.
After a long period of Egypt having almost complete hegemony over Palestinian reconciliation efforts, Fatah and Hamas decided to hold these talks in Turkey, even as auspices, while relations between Ankara and Cairo are currently fraught with tensions.
According to Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, Egypt is livid with both Hamas and Fatah over this choice and the ouster of Cairo from the reconciliation process.
In addition, on the eve of the talks in Turkey, Abbas called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and asked him to help as much as possible to guarantee the success of the elections and to even send Turkish observers to safeguard the purity of the elections when they do take place.
Ramallah has also announced it has decided to end the role of the Palestinian Authority as the rotating president of the Arab League, in protest of the League’s refusal to condemn the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
There are clear indications that Abbas, who is in a position of political weakness, has decided to strengthen his ties to extremists at the expense of his relations with his classical allies due to his sense that the moderate forces have decided to turn their backs on him.
Posted on September 30, 2020
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