What happened: Hamas and Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority have edged closer to an agreement to hold Parliamentary elections in February and Presidential elections in May.
- Earlier this week Hanna Nasser, the head of the Elections Committee met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza and announced that Hamas agreed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s conditions for holding elections.
- Nasser said: “The results of the election will be respected and appreciated by Hamas and the Palestinian factions.” He called for a national meeting for dialogue on all issues related to the elections to ensure credibility, safety and civil liberties.
- Abbas visited Qatar this week and discussed a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal. Both Turkey and Qatar support such a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even suggesting that Fatah and Hamas run on a joint electoral list.
Context: The Palestinian’s have not held parliamentary election since 2006, and the last presidential election was held in 2005.
- Mahmoud Abbas won the 2005 Presidential election but Hamas won more support than Fatah in the Parliamentary elections in 2006. In 2007 Hamas launched a coup in Gaza, violently ejecting Fatah leaders and PA security forces. Since then, Fatah and Hamas have entrenched their control of the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
- Despite numerous rounds of reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, until now they have not been able to implement any of their agreements. Although Hamas has been willing to allow Fatah and the Palestinian Authority to resume civil control of Gaza it rejected calls for Hamas to disarm and cease its military activity. In 2018 the two sides came close to resuming normal relations to pave the way for elections but the talks broke down when a roadside bomb targeted the motorcade of then Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah during a visit to Gaza. Mr Hamdallah was leading the reconciliation process.
- Hamas and Israel appear to be getting closer to a substantive truce agreement. Hamas cancelled today’s scheduled “march of return” demonstration on the Israeli – Gaza border. The third consecutive week that protests have been cancelled.
- According to Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, the Israel – Hamas truce includes plans for five large-scale projects on the Israel Gaza border. Three industrial zones will be built on the Israeli side, but will provide employment for thousands of Palestinians from Gaza. The fourth project is a power plant to supply electricity to Israel’s Gaza periphery communities and to the Gaza Strip. The fifth project is a plan for a green energy facility to produce electricity from waste products. Israel has also agreed to extend the Gaza fishing zone to 15 nautical miles.
- Qatari envoy Khaled al-Hardan arrived in Gaza this week to distribute the latest instalment of Qatari money, including $7million worth of $100 gifts to families in need. Al-Hardan shuttled between the Gaza Strip and Israel and met with Israeli security officials for talks over a truce arrangement.
- On Wednesday, Israeli security forces prevented an attempt to smuggle a large quantity of equipment into the Gaza Strip. According to officials, the shipment included 325 packages ordered online from popular websites such as AliExpress and Amazon. The goods confiscated included knives, scuba gear, drones and satellite communications equipment.
Looking ahead: In September Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that he wanted to hold elections in Gaza and the West Bank.
- Precise details of the Fatah – Hamas understandings, as well as ideas about power sharing in the West Bank and Gaza, have yet to be released. But Palestinian leaders say they want elections to be held not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in East Jerusalem – an extension that Israel has been reluctant in the past to allow.
- Although Hamas and Fatah appear close to a deal to hold elections and to reconcile their political differences most analysts sound a note of caution that we have been here before, only for the bitter rivals to be unable to close a deal. That said, Hamas knows that the only route out of its current situation is to win political power in the West Bank and unseat Fatah as the ruling party.