CMEP Bulletin: Reconciliation Further Complicates Peace Process

CMEP Bulletin: Reconciliation Further Complicates Peace Process

Weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace

A peace agreement was signed on Wednesday but not the one Secretary of State John Kerry wanted. In a surprising turn of events, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement that may end their seven year feud and the current peace process.  

In 2006, Hamas overtook Fatah in the parliamentary elections held in the West Bank and Gaza.  Disagreements over implementing a Hamas-run government culminated in a violent split in 2007. Since then, the Fatah-dominated PA has governed the West Bank and Hamas has controlled Gaza. Elections have not been held since. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ term was to expire in January 2009.

Abbas has allowed close security cooperation with the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank and been a strong proponent of non-violent resistance and the two-state solution. The Hamas take-over of Gaza led the Israeli government to institute a blockade, contributing to a humanitarian crisis worsened by the Israeli invasion in 2009 and other military actions. Hamas has not renounced non-violent resistance and rockets continue to be fired into Israeli from inside Gaza.

With Abbas unable to make progress towards ending the occupation in the West Bank through these negotiations, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsening, both Fatah and Hamas could use a boost in public opinion. Unity is poplar amongst Palestinians and many of their Arab benefactors, such as Qatar.

When reports that the parties were meeting to discuss a unity agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Does he (Abbas) want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was even more blunt and said signing a deal with Hamas would be “signing the termination of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

On Wednesday, the deal was signed.

The terms of the agreement signed in Gaza are essentially the same as agreements the parties signed in Doha and Cairo in previous years, which failed to be implemented after disagreements over issues such as the integration of their security forces. If the deal goes through, the first parliamentary elections in eight years could be held within six months.

On Thursday, Israel called off negotiations.

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