Setback to Palestinian National Reconciliation

  • 13 October 2009

When it was announced that October 25 will be the date for signing of the national reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, an atmosphere of optimism prevailed at Palestinian and Arab levels over the possible turning over of the page on Palestinian differences and the beginning of a new phase of cooperation, coordination and national unity, especially after painstaking Egyptian efforts to bring the two parties together. However, the situation soon changed and tensions, disagreements and dispute overshadowed the Palestinian political scene. The situation worsened when the two sides traded blame over the Palestinian National Authority’s controversial position on the Goldstone Report over human rights abuses during the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. Consequently, the reconciliation drive faced serious difficulties after Hamas announced that due to the present circumstances the scheduled reconciliation meeting in Cairo will not be held. In response, the Palestinian President blamed Hamas of backtracking from its commitment to reconciliation. The controversy erupted when the Palestinian National Authority withdrew support for a vote in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to have the Goldstone report sent to the UN General Assembly for possible action. The issue exposed the deep divisions between the two sides that it seems were waiting to explode, despite efforts to achieve reconciliation and tackle causes of dispute. This had led to the floundering of the reconciliation agreement that had almost been reached.

There are four prerequisites for achieving Palestinian national reconciliation, the first being the existence of a serious political will for achieving it by all parties. Second, there should be belief in coexistence and participation based on the principle of higher Palestinian national interest. Third, there should be agreement on common interests that all sides should strive to achieve. Fourth, trust and an end to mutual suspicion among parties is absolutely essential. If these conditions are met, it might be possible to reach a real reconciliation that does not flounder because of certain positions taken by any Palestinian leader or official. The problem is that the setback suffered by the national reconciliation initiative has coincided with the threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque, which has hampered peace efforts as well. Perhaps the visit by US envoy George Mitchell was a clear expression of this concern, which means that Palestinians face the threat of liquidation of their cause, at a time when they are themselves divided. Still, the prevailing challenges should force them to agree and unite with each other in order to challenge Israeli schemes, and mend the distorted image of the Palestinian cause, which is a result of their internal differences.