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The positive impact of the “Arab uprisings,” particularly the Egyptian revolution, has reflected on the Palestinian issue in general and on the internal Palestinian arena in particular. The revival of the Palestinian street in the WB and GS was clear, and the youths’ slogans were “The people want to end the division, the people want to end the occupation.” These developments influenced both Fatah and Hamas and led to signing the reconciliation agreement.

As for the future of this agreement it faces one of three scenarios:

1- Partial agreement, where there would be applications of some articles, while others would be postponed till after the elections, and then almost indefinitely.

2- Temporary agreement: This agreement may work for weeks or months, but would not stand for the overcoming challenges, i.e., internal rivalry and security problems, Israeli, American and Quartet siege and pressure.

Controversial Issues and the Factors of Failure
Recent Developments and New Considerations
Hamas Stance
Fatah’s Position
Expected Scenarios

3- Full agreement, where all the articles would be applied, although foreign intervention keeps on jeopardizing its application.


The major developments of the “Arab uprisings” had direct impact on the Palestinian arena. The collapse of Mubarak’s regime in Egypt was one of the most important changes as its demise heralded the liberation of the inter-Palestinian relations from the biased Arab sponsor. Therefore, bilateral understandings were concluded in addition to the Egyptian reconciliation paper which paved the way for an agreement.

The pulse of the Arab street echoed in the Palestinian street. On March 15, the youths in the WB and the GS chanted “the people want to end the division.” Neither Fatah nor Hamas ignored these calls.

Consequently, the head of the Gaza-based Hamas government called upon the head of Fatah Mahmoud ‘Abbas to start an immediate comprehensive dialogue to achieve reconciliation. Whereas ‘Abbas –as the President of the PA– showed his readiness to visit the GS in order to discuss the formation of a national unity government and the preparations for the elections.

Controversial Issues and the Factors of Failure

Since 15/6/2007, the Palestinian arena has been suffering schism while the efforts for reconciliation have failed. This is due to several considerations and factors, including:

1. The confidence crisis between Fatah and Hamas, the feeling of each party that the other wants to monopolize power while adopting a tactical approach towards reconciliation, the adoption of different perspectives regarding ending the occupation, the negative experience resulting from the clashes between the two parties and the security approach towards the supporters of other’s party in addition to absence of security and decisive military action.

2. The decision of the Middle East Quartet, which acts as the international reference for the Palestinian issue. It imposed three conditions on Hamas in order to join the official political life (The recognition of Israel’s right to exist, renunciation of resistance and commitment to the agreements signed by the PLO)

3. The US veto on any reconciliation which is not consistent with its conditions. The US used several pressure cards including: cutting financial aid to the PA, withholding the “certificate of good security conduct” from the PA, boycott and siege.

4. The Israeli rejection of any rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas. Israel has continuously threatened to thwart the PA institutions, tamper with its security, and disrupt the election process if the Palestinian reconciliation lead to a breach of the obligations Israel has imposed on the PA.

5. The former Egyptian regime, although indirectly, considered Hamas a danger.  It saw in Hamas an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and considered its resistance trend contradictory to the Egyptian policy. Thus, the Egyptian government was keen to implement its paper for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which Hamas perceived as biased and imbalanced.

Based on these considerations, the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah faced many obstacles including: the reference of security services, the security coordination between the PA and Israel and the reform and reconstruction of the PLO. However, the talks held in Damascus, fall 2010, resolved most of the unsettled problems between the two sides. Nonetheless, the security dilemma (reform of security apparatuses and security coordination with Israel) remained as the only core obstacle hindering the return to normal life in Palestine.

Recent Developments and New Considerations

The Arab developments brought a new Egyptian government which freed itself from many reservations of its predecessor. This gave the Palestinians the impression that it does not mind revising the reconciliation paper, or having other bilateral agreements in order to achieve the Palestinian reconciliation as soon as possible.

 The new Egyptian government gave several positive stances towards the Palestinian situations and the inter-Palestinian relations, including:

1. Refraining from putting pressure on any side to serve the interests of the other.

2. Paving the way for a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, in the light of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

3. Improving the official relations with Hamas after they have been limited to the security level. The new Egyptian foreign minister met with Hamas leaders including the head of Hamas politburo, Khalid Mish‘al.

On the international level, the Quartet still holds to its traditional stance. Lately, Tony Blair reiterated that Hamas commitment to the Quartet’s conditions is essential to restore national unity among the Palestinians. However, the latest regional developments show that the Quartet’s political position is invalid and uninfluential. The Quartet, almost, continues to deal with the latest Palestinian developments from the American and Israeli perspectives.

For its part, the Obama administration has kept silent on the Palestinian scene developments. It did not interfere directly in the inter-Palestinian debate concerning Haniyyah’s initiative and ‘Abbas’ response. The Obama administration only sent a low level delegate (one of George Mitchell’s aides) to discuss with ‘Abbas and Netanyahu the perception that might help the two sides return to the table of direct negotiations, thus hoping to jumpstart the peace process.

On one hand, the new American stance seems consistent with the US sensitivity towards the voice of the Arab street in general and the Palestinian street in particular. On the other hand, it gives a chance for both Israel and the PA to escape the reverberations of the changes that have stricken the Arab world. The repercussions of the collapse of many regimes are feared to hit Israel and the PA leading to the demise of the current authority and paving the way for a supportive climate of the military resistance against Israel.

The Obama administration avoided showing itself to be against Palestinian reconciliation, the mood of the Palestinian public, or the new public and official Egyptian stances.

Israel still refuses any rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas. Israel believes that the political and geographical split is a historic opportunity, which facilitates the shattering of the Palestinian cause and helps Israel evade the recognition of the Palestinian State. Thus, Netanyahu has taken the initiative to warn ‘Abbas that he had to choose between Israel and Hamas.

On another level, the Obama administration avoids any stance that shows its opposition to the Palestinian reconciliation or the will of the Palestinian people or its disregard towards the new public and official positions in Egypt.

  Consequently, if the Netanyahu government fails to reach a political vision that satisfies Mahmud ‘Abbas and the American administration, its refusal for the Palestinian reconciliation would remain ineffective for the PA or Fatah or their head, Mahmud ‘Abbas.

Hamas Stance

Hamas positions were consistent with its understanding of the Arab developments, the Egyptian change and the voice of the Palestinian street. These positions were particularly represented in the following points:

1. The change in Egypt: Hamas believed that the new Egyptian policy, post the uprising of 25/1/2011, would distance itself from the Quartet’s policies and conditions. Thus the pressure of Egypt on Hamas and the siege on Gaza Strip is almost gone. The Egyptian role has become a facilitator to the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas.

2. The voice of the Palestinian street: The head of the Gaza-based government has pursued a positive approach towards the calls of the Palestinian street demanding the end of the state of division. This was soon reflected in the initiative launched by Haniyyah on 15/3/2011 and in the intensive participation of Hamas supporters in different events that stressed the need to end the division, remove the occupation and release the detainees.

3. Dialogue: The above considerations (the Arab, particularly the Egyptian, change and the demands of the Palestinian street) induced Hamas to raise the ceiling of its demands and call for a comprehensive dialogue after it was only asking that its remarks on the Egyptian paper be considered. It believes that these changes push towards a reconsideration of the entire paper or towards including in it some notes and reservations in the context of a bilateral agreement with Fatah. Hamas determination to reach conclusive results manifested in Haniyyah’s call for ‘Abbas to visit Gaza, for ‘Abbas is the only person (being the head of the PLO, the PA and Fatah) capable of deciding on these issues. However, at the end of the day, Hamas accepted only its remarks to be considered.

4. The political program: Hamas believes in the necessity of reaching a common political program which addresses the Palestinian national goals and priorities and serves as a reference for national work for the institutions and apparatuses of the PLO and PA. According to Hamas, the failure to reach such a program would lead to legislative and presidential elections that strengthen the division rather than ending it. Thus, the chances of achieving reconciliation would be complicated or even aborted.

5. A reference for national decision: In order to coordinate the stances within a comprehensive, national Palestinian strategy, Hamas insists on the need that ‘Abbas call the leaders of all Palestinian factions to form a temporary reference for national decision. This reference would lead the Palestinians till the elections of the Palestinian National Council and the formation of the Executive Committee of the PLO. 

Hamas further believes that going to legislative elections without any guarantees of the reactivation of the PLO and restoring its political status would lead to terminating the PLO’s role as a national sponsor for the choice of resistance. Hamas believes that the Palestinian cause is still in the stage of resistance and liberation and has not yet passed to the stage of state and independence.

Fatah’s Position

Fatah leadership has realized that the Egyptian policies, post-Mubarak period, would witness deterioration regarding the support for the peace process and the PA in Ramallah while there will be more understanding of Hamas demands. Thus, Fatah will lose the Arab sponsor which has always supported it. Consequently, its political program would be directly affected especially when Netanyahu and his government are ignoring ‘Abbas and are insistant on unfreezing settlement building, which effectively leads to hampering the direct talks and the peace process reaching a dead end.

In addition, Fatah has realized that the changes taking place in the Arab arena are likely to appear on the Palestinian arena. Indeed, the Palestinian street has started, faster than any expectations, to call: The people want to end the division, the people want to end the occupation…

Fatah realizes that the above demands require high costs; i.e., the PA would be “violating” its security and political commitments towards the Israelis. Thus, as a compromise between their stances and those of the public, Fatah and ‘Abbas called for the formation of an interim government and the holding of elections without the desire to open any further files.

The major concern for Mahmud ‘Abbas was the need to absorb the demands of the street in a way that guarantees overcoming the political division to achieve geographic unity between the GS and the WB before September 2011. For the PA is preparing to declare at that date the completion of building the state institutions and thus demanding the Quartet and the General Assembly to recognize the Palestinian State.

Nonetheless, due to the impact of the new Egyptian factor on the Palestinian reconciliation, some reports have shown that Fatah has agreed to resume dialogue with Hamas within the context of the preparations for ‘Abbas’s visit to Gaza Strip. This change in Fatah stances and the corresponding cooperation of Hamas compelled the former to move forward. Hence, the question now is: Would this change have an impact on Fatah’s positions on the disputed issues?

Expected Scenarios

The Arab developments and the voice of the Palestinian street have undoubtedly influenced the positions of the parties concerned with the reconciliation file. However, it seems that the change within Fatah and Hamas is not enough to achieve complete reconciliation. Thus, the bilateral relations are expected to have one of three scenarios:

1- Partial implementation of the agreement: The two parties would agree on a compromise; freeing the political detainees, freedom of public activities and the formation of a reconciliation government, which would be immediately implemented. However, the reconstruction and reform of the PLO, and the efforts to unify the reference and doctrine of the security forces would be postponed till after September. On this date, the Palestinian state may be declared. However, the controversial issues would be postponed indefinitely. Thus, for now, a temporary authority for national decision command may be formed.

2- Temporary agreement: This agreement may work for weeks or months, but would not stand for the overcoming challenges, i.e., internal rivalry and security problems, Israeli, American and Quartet siege and pressure.

3- Full agreement: This scenario would take place, if and only if, all the surrounding pressing circumstances keep a status quo. Hence, all articles and issues would be agreed upon and implemented, pending an absence of international intervention. However, the latter is not guaranteed unless Fatah prioritize internal considerations.

Generally speaking, the confidence crisis between Fatah and Hamas is still an obstacle hindering any agreement. In addition, waiting to benefit from the change in the Arab world might delay the achievement of comprehensive reconciliation. On top of that, it does not seem that the Israelis or the Americans would welcome neither easing the pressure on Hamas in the WB and the GS nor its effective participation in the elections.

Thus, there are no signs of a near achievement of full reconciliation between the Palestinian parties, particularly between Fatah and Hamas.


1. Focusing on the purpose of “ending the occupation,” so that it would not be lost in the details of the internal Palestinian clashes and making this purpose a priority for the Palestinian people in the WB and the GS, at home and abroad.

2. Enhancing the pressure of the street on the basis of a clear and specific agenda that pushes towards the achievement of a comprehensive and durable reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and exercising direct pressure on the unserious parties within the reconciliation track.  

3. Pursuing measures by the authorities in Ramallah and Gaza to rebuild confidence. These measures include the release of political detainees, raising the ceiling of freedoms, and allowing the institutions affiliated with the two sides to operate freely within the PA territories.

4. Ending the security coordination with Israel which is not justified anymore, especially when Israel has insisted on the continuous settlement building. In addition, this coordination is a major obstacle hampering national reconciliation.

5. Agreeing on a national political program, a peaceful transition of power and setting the Palestinian political house in order, while freeing the PLO, PA, Palestinian factions and institutions from foreign interference conditions and pressure.

* The original text of this Assessment was written before the signature of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, on the 3/5/2011.

Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Moueen Manna’ for authoring the original text on which this Strategic Assessment was based.

The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on 26/4/2011