Hamas and Fatah have reached a unity agreement in Gaza, naming as the head of Hamas and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who will serve as speaker for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). This move is part of an ongoing effort to create a unified Palestinian government and to reinstate the PLC. Upon completion of the formation of this new unified government, the suspended PLC would reconvene and elect new leaders of the assembly.
This new unity government is part of a reconciliation deal between the two groups, as tensions between them have been high since 2007. In 2007, Hamas forces had driven back those of Fatah to the city of Ramallah while they took over the entire Gaza strip. In this new deal, legislative and executive powers will be divided between the two groups. However, Ismail Haniyeh stated in a rally that this effort was made to unite Palestinians against the “Zionist enemy,” the state of Israel.
The Hamas government of Gaza strip reportedly held its last meeting on Tuesday, with deputy Prime Minister Ziad Al-Zaza stating that they were looking toward handing full control of the region to a unified Palestinian government. All actions being taken by both groups are meant as displays to end the political rifts and prepare for free elections in 2015.
Internal issues for both groups have helped Hamas and Fatah to reach a unity agreement in Gaza. The reason these groups have come together now as opposed to years ago indicates how difficult the rift has been for these organizations. Hamas has cited financial difficulty due to an Egyptian and Israeli blockade while Fatah states that a new political strategy is being pursued by this unity agreement after negotiations with Israel fell through in April.
Surrounding nations, in particular Israel are skeptical to the point of disbelief. Israel has long regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israeli Defense Forces have already raided newspapers for printing pro Hamas literature in the city Ramallah. Managers of the newspaper agreed to comply, though Palestinians have stated this was a direct violation of the rights of free expression. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that Israel will never support any government involved with or supported by Hamas.
The formal announcement of this new government is expected within days, though the idea of reconciliation has become difficult to grasp, especially by those victimized by the 2007 Hamas-Fatah conflict that left over 400 fighters dead. There are other issues that this new government will likely need to resolve, such as prisoner releases, territory division, and foreign aid.
Hamas and Fatah reaching a unity agreement in Gaza shows that both groups are now making efforts, whether they are regarded by outsiders as symbolic or otherwise, to reconcile and begin to put an end to the seven year struggle that has been one of many sources causing unrest in the Middle East. Representatives and delegates of these talks have stated that what is important to note is that these two groups are now taking the actions necessary to display the fact that they are moving forward.
By David Jones