Several days after Hamas Political Bureau Head Ismail Haniyeh released a statement announcing Hamas’s acceptance of Egypt’s proposal for Palestinian reconciliation, Fatah came out in criticism of the Gaza-based movement’s leaders on Saturday.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official who has been heading reconciliation talks, told Palestinian radio station Voice of Palestine on Saturday that Egypt’s proposal is essentially a list of suggestions outlining mechanisms to implement a reconciliation plan, and that it is not a final or thorough document.
Fatah Spokesperson Atef Abu Seif reiterated Ahmed’s remarks in a press statement released the same day, saying: “From the start, we’ve said that there isn’t an ‘Egyptian proposal’ — these are suggestions that have been put forth. Parties who are against reconciliation, however, have released false documents to the public.”
Following Hamas’s announcement of its approval of Egypt’s reconciliation proposal, state-run Turkish news company Anadolu Agency published what it said was the text of the Egyptian proposal, a four-part plan with a clear timetable.
According to the published document, the first phase, which is set to be implemented over one week, includes an end to punitive measures imposed on the Gaza Strip by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The second phase, which is meant to take place over three weeks, includes Hamas handing over responsibility for tax collection in the strip and lifting the barricades on Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel. The third phase is set to take place between three to four weeks and includes a judicial merger that Egypt is to supervise.
The fourth and final phase is set to be carried out over three days. It consists of organizing a meeting for the committee tasked with developing the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Cairo in order to determine the proper mechanisms for implementing the 2011 agreement, particularly what it stipulates with regards to the formation of a national and legislative council, holding elections, as well as agreements governing societal reconciliation and public freedoms in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Ahmed is expected to arrive in Cairo within two days to deliver Fatah’s official response to Egypt’s proposal.
Speaking to Mada Masr, Gaza-based Palestinian politician Ibrahim al-Madhoun described Fatah’s actions as an act of “procrastination,” contending that Fatah appears to be rejecting the proposal.
“I think that Azzam objects to Egypt’s proposal. Fatah has refused to engage with the Egyptian initiative until now perhaps due to concerns regarding the direction the reconciliation process has taken, or concerns over Egypt’s role in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian conflict in general,” says Madhoun.
Hamas’s acceptance of Egypt’s reconciliation proposal came on the heels of a meeting between Egypt’s General Intelligence Director Abbas Kamal and a delegation headed by Saleh Arouri and composed of Hamas political bureau members Moussa Abu Marzouk, Ezzat al-Risheq, Khalil al-Hayya, Hossam Badran and Rawhi Mushtaha, which took place during the delegation’s visit to Cairo earlier this month.
“Of course, what Moussa Abu Marzouk said [about certain terms in the reconciliation proposal] is accurate,” says Madhoun, referring to Abu Marzouk’s comments to Palestinian media on Wednesday, when he said the recent meeting with Egyptian officials was the most fruitful in months.
“This is a confirmation of the speed with which Hamas responded to the initiative and the approval of the head of the political bureau,” adds Madhoun.
Madhoun predicts that Fatah’s position will not change. “This is not the first time Fatah has evaded the Egyptian proposal. At the beginning, Hamas dissolved the administrative committee and then handed over the ministries and crossings. However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Today, it is clear that Fatah is afraid of reconciliation, especially since reconciliation will face a veto from Israel. Cairo challenged Tel Aviv and presented its proposal, but it seems that Fatah does not want to challenge Tel Aviv and fears the Israeli side.”
Hamas has accused the PA of imposing punitive measures on the residents of the Gaza Strip, which include lifting electricity subsidies and cutting electricity supply, routine withholding public employees’ salaries, and restricting access to medical supplies.
Last year saw a breakthrough in the reconciliation process when, in September, Hamas agreed to the dissolution of its administrative committee — which is in charge of governing Gaza — holding a general election, and permitting a unity government to take over, complying with PA demands.