Abbas casts doubt on Palestinian reconciliation


Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday called into question the practicality of the Palestinian unity government, which had apparently been agreed between Hamas and Abbas’s own Fatah faction.

It was announced last month that the two sides had agreed a technocratic unitary authority, which would administer the Gaza Strip. Only last week, the Palestinian unity government held its first cabinet meeting in Gaza in a display of unison. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and other ministers travelled from the West Bank, with Hamdallah claiming, “We have put years of division behind us.”

However, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas has called the unity arrangement into question, saying, “National reconciliation and an end to the [political] divide will be realised with the conducting of parliamentary and presidential elections.” Such elections have yet to be scheduled. Hamas-backed daily Al-Resalah further quoted Abbas saying, “there is no future for a country where more than half the people are militiamen, a situation that will never change without elections.”

The same publication said that Hamas official Salah Bardawil asked in response, “what about … the unity government that visited Gaza just days ago?” adding that Abbas’s comments “destroyed everything previously agreed upon” and “poisoned the atmosphere of reconciliation.”

There has been enormous animosity since Hamas violently expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007. Even during Operation Protective Edge this summer, Abbas accused Hamas of operating a “shadow authority” which threatened Palestinian unity.

Wary of Hamas’s control of Gaza, last month’s unity announcement appeared to provide enough reassurance for the international community to pledge £3.2 billion at a donor conference in Cairo on Sunday, for the rehabilitation of Gaza. However, many weighty questions remain unanswered, including whether the unity government would have the authority to manage any future conflicts independently of Hamas. Abbas’s reported comments will likely increase doubts over how much control the PA really has in Gaza and whether Hamas is prepared to relinquish any of its authority.