by Khalil F. Osman
Hamas’s recent announcement that it would dissolve its Administration Committee, a quasi-governmental body that had taken on state functions formed in March, marks a major development in the group’s protracted conflict with the Fatah Movement of Mahmoud Abbas. But the optimism that the announcement—after indirect talks between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo—will pave the way for a quick resolution to the conflict, the formation of a unity government and general elections seems overblown.
Reconciliation is not likely to come anytime soon. It had eluded a series of previous agreements (Mecca in 2007, Sana’a in 2008, Cairo in 2011, Doha in 2012, Cairo in 2012 and Shati refugee camp in 2014) all of which failed to produce results due to intractable disagreements over details, especially power-sharing and control of the Hamas-led security forces in Gaza.
The new twist in the decade-long rift between the two rival groups owes a great deal to the pragmatism of Hamas’s new leadership under Isma’il Haniyyeh and Yahya al-Sinwar. A deal with Fatah would help ease the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, aggravated by punitive measures, including reduced electricity supplies to Gaza by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority following Hamas’s formation of its Administrative Committee. It also appeases Egypt, which, for years, has kept its frontiers with Gaza firmly closed.
Hamas’s announcement presents Abbas with a quandary of sorts. The Islamist group has thrown the ball into his court. If he accepts Hamas’s openness to reconciliation, the process can move forward. If he does not, or imposes conditions, the new stillborn attempt at reconciliation will be added to a mounting catalogue of bitter mutual recriminations that have long typified relations between the two sides.
Dr. Khalil F. Osman is a political scientist specialized in international affairs and Middle East politics. He is the author, most recently, of Sectarianism in Iraq: The Making of State and Nation Since 1920.