Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fatah and Hamas set for surface unity

The two Palestinian factions may agree to an Egypt-brokered unity deal – but only by glossing over their core differences

Ben White, Friday 2 October 2009

"After half a dozen unsuccessful attempts, there is now a strong sense that Egypt has managed to negotiate a national unity deal between Hamas and Fatah. Reports indicate that at the end of October, Palestinian factions will gather in Cairo to finalise an agreement, the result of a breakthrough in recent weeks. Next week, Mahmoud Abbas is expected to support the plan after meeting with senior Egyptian officials.

Hamas leaders have sounded optimistic about the chances of finally reaching a deal with their rivals, after agreeing to the specifics of the Egyptian-engineered compromise. Khaled Meshaal described discussions with Egyptian officials as very positive, while Ismail Haniyeh said that "the signing of the reconciliation agreement is near". Fatah leaders have been less effusive in public, though central committee member Nabil Shaath said that his movement is optimistic and hopes that the proposed conference "will lead to an agreement".

The highlights of the deal relate to the issues of substance that until now have divided the two parties, namely: elections, security forces, detainees, and a way of overseeing the implementation of the deal........

Undoubtedly the stakes are high – whether or not Egypt is serious in its message of "last chance" (or whether it is a way of notching up the pressure). While the situation for the Palestinians in the occupied territories has never been more desperate, that itself could make it more likely that a unity deal is finally reached."

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