What about Fatah and Hamas reconciliation agreement?

Under the auspices of Egypt, delegations from the Fatah and Hamas movements met in Cairo on April 27, 2011 to discuss the issues concerning ending the political division and the achievement of national unity. Palestinian factions led by the two rivals Fatah and Hamas finally sealed the 4th May, a reconciliation agreement in Cairo.
Representatives of thirteen groups and independent personalities have signed the agreement after a year and a half of fruitless negotiations, following talks with Egyptian officials. Besides the Fatah and Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) have also ratified, despite reserves on some points.
The agreement provides the formation of a “national unity government” with a prime minister and ministers chosen by consensus; preparation for Palestinian Authority elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a year; combining the security forces controlled by the separate factions; and reactivating the Palestinian Legislative Council – in which Hamas won an overwhelming majority in 2006.
In reaction to this Palestinian reconciliation deal, Israel blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). This decision was nevertheless criticized by the International Community and inside Israel as well.  The European Commission granted an additional 85 million Euros to pay civil servants of the PA working in vital sectors such as doctors, nurses and teachers. France has, too, made ​​a gesture by announcing an agreement granting 10 million Euros to the PA.
Ehud Barak, the Defense minister, criticized the decision of the government and said it is a mistake; He added that Israel can easily keep track of the use of money and make sure it is not transferred to Hamas without imposing a freeze.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls to Abbas to cancel the agreement with Hamas should be understood as evidence of how much value Israel puts in its relationship with the PA. Israel does actually not want to see that relationship jeopardised by this reconciliation agreement. It is definitely not in Israel interests to see a united Palestinian national movement, which can now address important issues and speak to the International community with a single voice.

Why was this reconciliation possible now?
The reconciliation was firstly made possible by the regional context and especially the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, from power. They were two of the PA’s biggest supporters against Hamas. The revolution in Egypt and their removal also served to inspire and instigate mobilization among Palestinian youth in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This reconciliation between the two factions of Hamas and Fatah can also be seen as a tactic to thwart and ease rising Palestinian discontent against them, and the increasing relevance of youth protests materialised by the 15th of March movement in a broader context of  Arab Springs Revolutions. Only one day after the launch of the 15th of March movement, which gathered thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as abroad, demanding notably an end to the division that divided the West Bank and Gaza, Mahmmoud Abbas announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to engage in unity talks, while Hamas leaders were also declaring their readiness to discuss with PAs or Fatah officials. Activists of the 15th march movement were nevertheless repressed and attacked the past few weeks by both security forces and thugs from Hamas in Gaza and Fatah and the PA in the West Bank.  Hamas and Fatah have tried to undermine the organisers’ efforts, accusing its leaders in medias of receiving foreign funding and shifting the focus of the protests to the factional division for fear of “losing grip over power and authority“.
In addition, on the day of the announcement of the agreement, Hamas security forces violently dispersed nearly 100 youth celebrating in Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza for “failure to obtain prior approval to congregate”.
We can therefore say that this agreement reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is a first victory for the youth movement of the 15th of March fostered by the revolutionary atmosphere in the region.

Is this reconciliation agreement the first path to an effective path to liberation?
The reconciliation between the two rival factions is only one minor element in relation to the rest of the demands of the youth movement. This latter ‘s main objective is to rehabilitate the Palestinian National Council through elections which will include all Palestinians, regardless of geographic location and circumstance, and not just those of the West Bank and Gaza. The ultimate goal is to reconstruct a Palestinian national programme based upon a comprehensive resistance platform.
The reconciliation agreement did actually not provide any commitment to real reform and democratisation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), to re-enfranchise and include the majority of Palestinians, who do not live in the Occupied Territories.
The deal between Fatah and Hamas does not solve any current problems or key issues with Israel and the relationship of direct collaboration between the PA and the Israeli State. Not a single point in the reconciliation agreement challenges the security cooperation between the PA and Israel occupation forces. The Palestine Papers revealed by Al Jazeera channel in January how deeply this collaboration went, including PA officials urging Israel to tighten the siege of Gaza, efforts by the PA to block Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners,  and secret committees to undermine the previous Palestinian national unity government established in 2007.
In the past, Hamas and other groups on the left such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) rightly objected and criticized the PA’s direct collaboration with Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and, until June 2007, in Gaza. This collaboration has targeted not just Hamas and PFLP members, but activists and organisations which resist Israeli occupation with nonviolent means.  Following the reconciliation agreement, senior Israeli commanders in the occupied West Bank saw actually no modifications in their close relationship with their PA counterparts, according to different sources.
How will Hamas forces collaborate, which are targets of Israeli attacks, with PA forces, which are financed and supervised by the United States, on the field in the West Bank and Gaza? No clear answer has been given, while the PA security services continue to collaborate with Israel occupation forces.  There will effectively be no true integration of Palestinian armed groups, but each faction will continue to control its own, under the umbrella of a superficial “Higher Security Committee” as written in the reconciliation agreement.
Hamas, which has been an important actor in the military resistance against Israel, seems today ready to join and participate in a “national unity” government which openly cooperates with the Israeli occupation army which attacks often by bombardment Gaza, assassinates Hamas’ cadres as well as members from other political groups and arrest activists in the Occupied Territories. Hamas has also through this agreement recognize the existence of the Palestinian president, thus reversing Hamas’ long-standing insistence that Abbas’ term of office had expired and that he was without legitimacy, whose term in office actually expired in January 2009. Hamas also said it will not oppose peace negotiations led by the PLO, controlled by Abbas, with Israel.
This “unity” deal might re-introduce discussions between Fatah and Hamas, but it does not seem to put an end to the division in any way. Both groups will actually continue to control their authority in their respective region. Recent events have also cast serious doubt on the actual freedom Hamas members will have in the occupied West Bank post-unification. After unification was announced, Israel arrested two members of Hamas in the West Bank. Furthermore, on 5 May, the PA security forces detained six Hamas-affiliated men.
Mahmoud Abbas actually told pro-Israel lobbyists visiting from the US on May 8, that there will be no Hamas in the West Bank, and that the PA will not share authority with them. Abbas was urging the Israel lobbyists to help convince the US Congress not to cut off the financial aid on which the PA depends.
Hamas on its side has openly and repeatedly declared its will to be recognized by the International Community and starts a dialogue with it following this reconciliation agreement. Hamas leader Khaled Mechaal declared during the official ceremony of the agreement that Hamas wanted the “establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital” which is to demand a state on the lines of June 1967, the basis for negotiations in the eyes of the International community.
Hamas has actually failed to articulate, or to rally the Palestinian people like Fatah around a viable strategy and program to liberate Palestine these past few years. They have actually long signalled its desire to move away from armed struggle toward purely political means. They have stopped nearly any form of military resistance since its takeover in 2007 and even prevented military resistance from Gaza.  
Hamas strategy has been lastly to simply agree on a so called possible “two-state solutions” – and desire to be recognized and included in the so called “peace process negotiations”. This agreement with the pro-USA PA might actually push Hamas turning its back on its role as a resistance movement, without gaining any additional leverage that could help Palestinians free themselves from Israeli occupation and colonial rule.

The reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas is without doubt better than the division; a united Palestinian national movement is definitely a first path towards liberation. This deal does nevertheless not in any way, in its contents or even beyond it, provide as a viable political program or vision to free Palestine. The agreement does not address as well the issue of uniting, including and mobilising all Palestinians throughout the world, in other words in the refugee camps, in the Diaspora, the 48 territories, and not only the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The deal is a way to share the power of each group and protect it against the threat of a rising youth Palestinian movement with tactics and strategies to suggest a viable program for the liberation of Palestine.
The path to the liberation of Palestine, as put forward by the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which are not included or addressed by the reconciliation agreement, have to address these following issues to include all Palestinians and all their fundamental rights:
         – end of the Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, as well as the dismantling of the apartheid wall. 
          – end of the Israel’s system of institutionalized racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens
          – for the Palestinian refugees and internally displaced, the great majority of the Palestinian people, to exercise their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes of origin and to receive reparations.

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