Priorities of Palestinian National Reconciliation

  • 8 June 2008

Palestinian national reconciliation and ending the Fatah- Hamas conflict are inevitable necessities because of the negative and dangerous consequences this conflict has had, and will continue to have, on the Palestine question. From here comes the importance of the call by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last Wednesday on the anniversary of the June 1967 defeat for beginning a comprehensive national dialogue to implement the Yemen initiative.

In reality, there are quite a few positive indications that this call will succeed in launching such a dialogue between the two movements. First, Hamas has welcomed it when one of its leaders, Mahmoud al-Zahhar, said that the movement "unconditionally welcomes the call so long as it is independent of foreign influences and has a Palestinian agenda and Arab support." He also called for a speed-up of discussions. Second, Abu Mazen emphasized that his call for national dialogue came after numerous meetings in the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and with national forces and factions. He also pointed out that there was general consensus on dialogue to ensure national Palestinian unity. Third, Fatah and Hamas have stopped their mutual media campaigns.

If there are positive indicators for the success of national reconciliation, there are essential conditions for success on the ground. Most importantly, mutual concessions need to be made by Fatah and Hamas. The two parties' insistence on their positions prevented the implementation of the Yemen initiative that was signed last March.

The initiative had stipulated the Palestinian return to what it was before the events of the Gaza Strip, rather than return to Gaza pre-June 2007, the date of Hamas control over the sector. But it could not be implemented because of the two movements' different interpretations of its terms, Fatah's insistence that Hamas relinquish power in Gaza before the beginning of dialogue, and Hamas's condition of reinstating the national unity government and dismissing the Salam Fayyad cabinet that President Abbas formed in Ramallah. There also is a great need for the Arab League to act. And indeed, the League's Secretary General Amr Musa was glad to hear of Abu Mazen's call. Knowledgeable sources said that he placed a telephone call to the head of the Palestinian national unity government, Ismail Haniyya, and announced the League's intention to lead a new effort for dialogue between Fatah and Hamas.

At any rate, what is hoped for now from all Palestinian factions is a commitment to Palestinian collective action for overcoming differences. There is no doubt that Hamas's welcome of President Abbas's call for dialogue opens the door for continued inter-party negotiations and a return to purposeful Palestinian action. However, it should be understood by the parties that dialogue needs mutual concessions.