Palestinians look forward to a political breakthrough

Palestinians look forward to a political breakthrough
The Cairo deal could yet pave the way to fresh elections in Palestine, offering a glimpse of hope that the blockade of Gaza may be lifted, writes Rami Almeghari.
4 min read
23 October, 2017
Palestinians hope for breakthroughs in Gaza and with the Trump administration - and Israel [Getty]

This month, the Islamist Hamas party in Gaza and the rival Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, agreed to a reconciliation, following ten years of political divisions.

The agreement came from Cairo, the main mediator between the two sides, when Hamas announced it would dissolve its administrative committee that runs the Gaza Strip.

The announcement followed Egyptian efforts to reach a rapprochement between Hamas and Cairo over security for the border between Gaza and the nearby militancy-plagued Sinai peninsula.

In the meantime, Hamas demanded Abbas lift a number of sanctions imposed on the Gaza-based movement a few months ago. Funding for fuel, needed to generate electricity in Gaza, had been cut off under Abbas' attempts to arm-twist Hamas, while salaries for employees on the Palestinian Authority's payroll were not paid and thousands of other public sector workers were forced into an early pension.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are now waiting for the consensus government of Ramallah to arrive in Gaza for the administration of the embattled coastal enclave and prepare for general elections as announced in the Cairo deal.

Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, addressed world leaders during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. His speech detailed the agreement between Hamas and Fatah and sent a warning to Israel over the stalemate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Abbas maintained that the two-state solution, as envisioned by Washington, is being threatened - and that Palestinians are ready to look for other workable solutions, such as a bi-national state for all its citizens.

In the Gaza Strip, two million residents have been under siege by Israel for ten long years, and many are now keenly looking forward to a political breakthrough

Abbas referred to the UN's partition plan of 1947, which divided the lands of historical Palestine between Israelis and Palestinians. He also blamed Israel for the failure of the peace process and the lack of the two-state solution's implementation, which he said had been blocked by of Israel's construction of Jewish-only settlements on the occupied land of the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian president also called for a concrete effort from President Donald Trump's administration towards finding peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

In the Gaza Strip, two million residents have been under siege by Israel for ten long years, and many are now keenly looking forward to a political breakthrough - reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and peace between Palestinians and Israelis. The optimism isn't universal, however.

"I believe that there will be no reconciliation," said Nabil Alsaqa, a student at the University of Palestine in Gaza.

"This is partly because Israel has always wanted that armed Palestinian resistance factions renounce their arms. In Gaza, these factions seem unwilling to give up their weapons."

But Mahmoud Alajramy, a leading political analyst, believes that reconciliation could work out - this time. Both Hamas and Fatah have signed a series of reconciliation deals, one of which was also in Cairo, back in 2011. And this latest announcement is consistent with the 2011 agreement.

"[Abbas' UN] speech can facilitate reconciliation with Hamas. I feel it is also a partial reaction to Israeli policy. But the speech has not indicated any seriousness towards that reconciliation with Hamas, and has not ostensibly referred to the national Palestinian constant rights," Alajramy told The New Arab.

Mousa Abu Marzouq, an exiled Hamas leader, voiced his party's readiness to accept a peaceful settlement with Israel. Abu Marzouq did say, however, that his party's armed resistance against the Israeli occupation was non-negotiable.

Hamas has been criticised for rejecting three international demands: recognising Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past-signed peace agreements.

Israel, meanwhile, has not been held to the same standard

Naji Shurrab, another leading Gaza-based political analyst, appeared sceptical towards prospects of a genuine solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"It seems that peace, from the American perspective, is based on stages. This would first start with normalisation between Israel and nearby Arab states - something that is meant to be an approach to peace between Israel and Palestinians," said Shurrab.

"The other stage would be political containment of the Islamist Hamas, by supporting reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza, in a way that would lead to Hamas' acceptance of a certain political process that is upcoming."

Over the past ten years, Hamas has not been involved in the Palestinian Authority-led peace process with Israel.

Since it won elections in 2006, Hamas has been criticised for rejecting three international demands: recognising Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past-signed peace agreements.

Israel, meanwhile, has not been held to the same standard; it has yet to define its borders in a way that could be recognised, it has not ended violent military raids on Palestinian homes and continues to act directly against the Oslo peace accords with its settlement construction and expansion.

In Gaza, following internecine fighting between the rival factions in the year after the election, Hamas routed Fatah from the Strip in 2007, leading Israel to impose its stringent economic blockade of the territory and launch three major attacks, in late 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Some 80 percent of Gaza's population now rely on regular food aid provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari