Mkhaimar Abusada | Political analyst and chairman of the Political Science Department at Al-Azhar University in Gaza
Many Palestinians and outsiders are skeptical of Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. This arises from several past failures, starting with the Mecca Agreement in February 2007 through the Beach Refugee Camp Agreement in April 2014. There are also a number of unsettled issues between the two parties, which can be seen as landmines facing Palestinian reconciliation. Among them is the future of the 45,000 Hamas employees in Gaza, which derailed the Beach Refugee Camp agreement. Also sensitive is who will be in charge of security in Gaza, with the presence of tens of thousands of resistance fighters who belong to Hamas’ military wing and other Palestinian factions. A third issue will be whether to integrate Hamas into the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But despite such skepticism, Palestinian reconciliation has a better chance of succeeding than before for several reasons. First, Egypt has invested time and effort to convince Hamas to dissolve the Administrative Committee, its de facto government in Gaza, and has shown a willingness to send an Egyptian security delegation to monitor implementation of the understanding, a key to its future success. Second, the deteriorating living conditions in Gaza compelled Hamas to compromise, particularly after President Mahmoud Abbas took harsh measures against Hamas, and Qatar, because of its standoff with other Gulf states, was unable to help the Islamist movement weather the difficult political and economic circumstances. And finally, the United States has also been pushing for Palestinian reconciliation, in order to pave the way for President Donald Trump’s “big deal” between Palestinians and Israelis.
Ghassan Khatib | Former Palestinian minister, lecturer in contemporary Arab studies and international studies at Birzeit University in the West Bank
The positive development of Hamas dissolving its government in the Gaza Strip and inviting the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibility there is not enough for reconciliation and ending the eleven-year-old split in the Palestinian political system. The main reason is that Hamas will not give Fatah a role in running Gaza without, first, being allowed to join the political leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In its turn, Fatah will not allow Hamas into the PLO unless it accepts the PLO’s political program along with its political and security commitments.
Hamas has no incentive to allow Fatah to take on governance duties in Gaza, because Fatah cannot reciprocate and allow Hamas to join in governing the West Bank. The West Bank is under Israeli control, and Israel most likely would not allow that. Therefore, the Hamas reconciliation initiative was merely tactical. Its main motive was for Hamas to release itself from the burden of governing Gaza, which undermined its popularity, without giving up its security and resistance roles. Therefore, Hamas seems to be trying to throw the hot potato into the lap of the Palestinian Authority. The question is will the government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah fall into the trap?
Hani al-Basoos | Associate professor of political science at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, political advisor to several Palestinian institutions
The recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts have a substantial chance of success, as Egypt is exercising great pressure on both parties in an attempt to maintain security on its border with the Gaza Strip and restore Fatah’s control over the territory. The Egyptian regime is determined to encourage the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations with Israel. This requires Palestinian unity in terms of decision-making and unified representation by the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Egyptian position corresponds with a lifting of the previous U.S. and Israeli veto on a Palestinian reconciliation, as stated by senior members of Hamas and Fatah.
Hamas’ willingness to relinquish its authority in Gaza, shown by its agreement to disband its Administrative Committee there, increases the chances of a successful reconciliation. Hamas’ governance of Gaza has become costly, as the siege has been tightened on the strip, external financial support has been cut, and as the Palestinian Authority (PA) recently imposed sanctions. All this pushed Hamas to surrender its power, except with regard to internal security. However, Hamas’ insistence that over 40,000 of its public servants and security personnel be integrated into the PA and the need to address Gaza’s destroyed infrastructure represent obstacles towards reconciliation. The PA has neither the financial ability nor the experience to deal with such a situation.
Mahmoud Jaraba | Researcher at the Germany-based Erlangen Center for Islam and Law in Europe
Hamas’ move to dissolve its Administrative Committee, which had served as the de facto government in the Gaza Strip since last March, might make it possible again to begin a reconciliation process with Fatah. However, reconciliation has become ever more complicated after a decade-long political and territorial split. Months ago, President Mahmoud Abbas took measures to subdue and overcome Hamas. While it is true that those measures might have softened Hamas’ position, they also transformed the rivalry between the two into a communal and territorial rivalry between the West Bank and Gaza. That is because Abbas’ punitive steps against Gaza led to unprecedented deterioration in the territory, at a time when unemployment and the humanitarian crises there are on the rise. Public opinion polls conducted recently by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show that Fatah’s popularity in Gaza has plummeted to 28 percent, compared to 40 percent three months ago.
Notably, those still supporting Fatah are closer to Mohammed Dahlan, the expelled Fatah leader and Abbas’ strongest rival. His popularity in Gaza has risen to 23 percent, compared to 9 percent nine months ago, and rose especially after he reached an agreement with Hamas last July. This all means that reconciliation is now more complicated and that the failure of negotiations between the two sides is more likely, reflecting similar outcomes in the past.