Questions about “Hamas-Fatah reconciliation”

Big news today about a reported “Hamas-Fatah reconciliation” deal. What does it mean? First, here’s what we know from Reuters:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement has struck an agreement with bitter rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, officials said Wednesday.

The surprise deal was brokered by Egypt and followed secret talks between the two sides, who fought a brief civil war in 2007 that left the Islamist Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and the Western-backed Abbas in charge of the West Bank.

Forging Palestinian unity is regarded as crucial to reviving any prospect for an independent Palestinian state.

“We have agreed to form a government composed of independent figures that would start preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah’s negotiating team in Cairo. “Elections would be held in about eight months from now,” he added.

Ordinary Palestinians have repeatedly urged their leaders to resolve their deep divisions, but analysts had long argued that the differences between the two sides on issues such as security and diplomacy were too wide to bridge.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader who participated in the talks, said the agreement covered five points, including elections, forming an interim unity government and combining security forces.

“We also discussed activating the Palestinian Legislative Council, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as well as forming a government consisting of nationalist figures to be agreed upon,” Zahar told Al Jazeera television in an interview.

He also said Hamas and Fatah agreed to free prisoners held by each side.

What does any of this mean? At this point, neither side has published the text of an agreement - and certainly Palestinians have a right to see one; they have had enough of secret deals and understandings.

Some immediate questions that come to mind and give rise to skepticism:

  • If there is an agreement on a joint “government” how can it possibly function without Israeli approval? Will Israel allow Hamas ministers be able to operate freely in the occupied West Bank? Will PA officials be able to move freely between the West Bank and Gaza? Israel is effectively at peace with the current Abbas wing of the Palestinian Authority and at war with Hamas. Impossible to see how such a government can operate under Israeli occupation. If anything this proves the impossibility of democracy and normal governance under Israeli military occupation.

  • In The Palestine Papers, the main concern of Ramallah officials was always to maintain Western financial aid to the PA, and not to make any agreement with Hamas that would jeopardize American and European financing for the PA. Has the Abbas PA overcome that fear, or have they reached understandings with donors that would allow Hamas to join a Palestinian Authority “government”?

  • Integration of security forces. Currently, Hamas in Gaza and the Abbas-run PA in the West Bank operate rival security forces. The Abbas security forces cooperate openly with the Israeli occupation including “welcoming” and hosting the Israeli chief of staff, as described by the PA’s Nablus governor yesterday. The Abbas forces are financed and supervised by the United States and their purpose has explicitly been to fight Hamas. Hamas’ forces by contrast are viewed as an enemy by Israel, and are frequently subject to military attacks and extrajudicial executions by Israel. Can such opposing forces really be combined without the Abbas side either renouncing its close ties to the Israeli military, or the Hamas side abandoning any commitment to resistance?

  • Elections: What is the point of having elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip once more under conditions of brutal Israeli military occupation, siege and control? Neither the West Bank government nor the Gaza government are truly in control of the fate of Palestinians. The power lies in Israel’s hands. As I wrote recently, such elections only further the illusion of self-governance while doing nothing to challenge or change actual Israeli control. And, when there is so much political repression in the West Bank, and indeed in Gaza, how can we have a guarantee of free elections?

  • Reform of the PLO: If Hamas and Abbas made a deal to reform the PLO which just includes adding Hamas to the dead body of the PLO how will that serve the Palestinian people? What about elections for the Palestinian National Council that include ALL Palestinians, including the majority which does not live in the 1967 occupied territories? A deal where Abbas and Hamas make a cozy deal to share seats in an undemocratic PLO is simply unacceptable.

  • More broadly, the goal for Palestinians should not be “unity” among factions, but unity of goals for the Palestinian people. What is the purpose and platform of the planned “transitional government” other than merely to exist? A real Palestinian strategy that unites all segments of the Palestinian people has been articulated by the BDS movement:

(a) an end to occupation and colonization of the 1967 territories; (b) full equality and an end to all forms of discrimination against Palestinians in the 1948 areas (“Israel”); and (c) full respect and implementation of the rights of Palestinian refugees.

Notably neither Fatah Abbas nor Hamas have endorsed this campaign, and neither has articulated a realistic strategy aimed at restoring the rights of all Palestinians.

Your thoughts? Comment below!


The White House has now commented on the reported “unity” deal. From Reuters:

“The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist,” he said.

This indicates that the US position opposing Palestinian unity except on terms acceptable to Israel and the United States, has not softened. Given this, it’s very difficult to see this going very far.



The main question I have with all of this is: Who gets to vote? There are refugees, ex-pats, political prisoners in Israel, etc. Are all of these populations going to get to have their say? What is the criteria for voting? Surely, none of this can be taken seriously if we exclude any Palestinians.


The only realistic way to true Palestinian unity is to bring the Palestinian National Council back to the fore. The PNC is the only truly democratic body representing all Palestinians. Until we include the refugees, we will forever be divided.


First putting aside differences, then holding fair elections to establish true representation will give the Palistinians strength through legitimacy to take on Israel's occupation. An important first step if genuine.


It will be interesting to see how this agreement reconciles the glaring contradictions in the PA plan for a Palestinian state in September. Even the Newsweek flack Dan Ephron who interviewed the PA President for his April 24 story "The Wrath of Abbas" spotted the glaring fallacy of this strategy "For the statehood resolution to have more than just symbolic impact, Abbas would have to come back from New York and assert sovereignty over the territory the U.N. just handed him. But that would entail confrontational measures—for instance, ending the security cooperation with Israel. Abbas told me that’s a path he will not take." -


Does anyone have the answer? Are these possibly steps in the right direction? Isn't it time to tell my country (USA) and Israel that they don't get to say who is a terrorist when each of them carries out terrorist activities on a daily basis? Shouldn't Israel be expected to decide if it is democratic or Jewish. Can't be both!


We will need to see the so-called agreement. I have observed a great deal of hostility between the two groups. I can remember Mahmoud Abbas bristling with anger when speaking of Hamas and Haniyah (sp?) Will the U S which has expended so much on hardware and training for Fatah be willing to sit quietly and allow events to take place without its input? It sounds wonderful. Now comes the hard part: negotiations. Betsy


Abbas knows he needs hamas to go forward with his plans to declare independant state. hamas has no future agenda and knows arm struggle is leading to nowhere , thats why they decided to go along to get their share of the cake. But i must say whatever the motive and the hidden agenda , its by far better than internal fighting and division. Yet we have to keep focus on how to shape future agenda of the struggle , specially getting all segments of our people _ 67,48,refugees_ involved .


I believe the answer to most of your questions is one word: Egypt. I believe that a renunciation of Camp David is on the cards, and that Egypt will be playing a role in guaranteeing Palestinian freedom of movement, integration of governmental and security forces, and other such matters as they can assist.


Well, at the risk of sounding cynical, lets ask ourselves a few questions.

First, the talks 'sponsored' by an Egyptian regime still to prove its real credentials makes me wonder. Then, any agreement by Hamas which does not include some required retreat by Abbas, seems unthinkable to me. Finally, a signing ceremony in Egypt (with of course top Hamas officials there), would be a perfect assassination opportunity for the CIA/Mossad.

I hope I am wrong and I live to see a democratically elected government for the whole of Palestine (as one country), but while Israel controls the US, and the US dictates the international agenda, I remain sceptical


This another stillborn proposal unless the US gives up the grossly warped characterization of Hamas as primarily a terrorist organization. Also there must be suitable technocrat and independent people named as interim leaders. Do not be intimidated by Bibi's blasts, such as "Fatah must choose between Hamas and Israel." There is no peace process going on, and hasn;t been for months, really for years. So why not give this a try? We should be commending both Hamas and Fatah for making this effort. :


From the Facebook page of a friend in Gaza: "Gaza people are giving more importance to the match of Real Madrid-Barcelona than the news of reaching an initial reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian factions... This is what Palestinian politicians did for the Palestinian people's national spirit!!!!"


I think that yes, I agree that there is serious negotiation which has yet to take place in order to fully legitimate this and make it a logistical reality, but... in the scheme of the current global stage, it does not seem too far fetched. If the Syrian government falls to the protests, where does that leave Hamas? Regardless of the impossibility of any just Palestinian government under Israeli occupation, how could the PA be expected to move towards any solidly acceptable state if Palestine remains divided (at least in public relations terms)? Israel obviously disapproves... Netanyahu said this will make peace negotiations impossible bc Israel will not negotiate with Hamas, but honestly, what progress has been seen in the so-called 'Peace Process' since September? At least in terms of unilateral declaration of statehood, and organization on a unilateral basis, this seems to be a necessary (at the very least as a symbolic) agreement...
Of course, it does not, and one shouldn't expect it to, change the situation or change the reality of Israeli occupation...


they talk of elections in eight months , thats fine , the question is where? who?how?what agenda? . We know that west bank and gaza palestinians are approximately 40% while 48 palestenians and diaspora make up 60% .Even if elections were held ,without participation of all segments of the palestinian people , the results whether the leadership or the political agenda will not represent the well of the whole people.Thats only one issue .


They must unite as Muslims. The US has gotten the UN to convene a special session tomorrow 4.29.10 regarding Syria, the first step of course is the sanctions, but according to Al Arabiya, the language of what the US has submitted follows the pattern of what was requested for Libya, to institute a no fly zone. The only reason the US agreed to create a Palestinian State was because they thought Fateh would be in charge and Hamas would be marginalized to the point they would cease to exist. Israel is refusing the reconciliation because they do not want a Palestinian state with Muslims having any rights at all. They know if it was them against Fatah they could do what they did to Yasser Arafat. Hamas however has the backing of Iran, and Iran has the backing of mujahideen in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is even more reason Israel does not want reconciliation to occur. Egypt would not have agreed with sanctions, etc. against Syria, so the Egyptian regime was deposed. How can a nation without a functioning govt. assist Palestine if a war were to break out there? They say coincidences are usually well planned out ahead of time.


If Israel does not like this deal, it is an indication that it is a good one for our side. The goal of those who wanted to control the Middle East was always to keep the arabs divided, fragmented and fighting each other.The deal itself, what little we know of it, must be a good sign mainly because it indicates a softening of Hamas position. It is time for Hamas indeed to be more realistic and accept the fact that armed conflict is leading to nothing but further losses of lands, rights and opportunities for Palestinians to finally be in charge of their destiny.


When Hamas won its majority in 2006, it didn't take long for Israel and co. to completely strangle the new government via illegal economic sanctions. We watched that government collapse in a matter of months. Israel will likely play the same card this time around. If we are lucky, this new unity coalition can hold together long enough to spell the end of the collaborationist Palestinian Authority altogether.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.