Fatah and the Islamist movement increase contacts with a view to Palestinian reconciliation

What power to govern Gaza and the Palestinian territories after the war? As Washington and its Arab allies link the negotiation of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to a comprehensive project to resolve the conflict, which could begin with the recognition of the Palestinian state by the United Nations, the factions Palestinians hesitate. Fatah, in power in the West Bank, and Hamas, which continues under bombs in Gaza, are increasing contacts with a view to a painful reconciliation, constantly postponed since their breakup in 2007.

This dialogue was established by dissidents and critics of President Mahmoud Abbas, from his party, Fatah, who send their emissaries to Qatar, where executives of the Islamist movement reside in exile. Then Fatah leaders followed suit. Potential successors to an 88-year-old president, they believe that the two parties need each other to survive.

This agitation forced Mahmoud Abbas to make the trip to Doha himself on February 11. There is no indication that this unpopular president, supported at arm’s length by his Western allies, met his Hamas rivals there, who hope to see him removed in the short term. But Mr. Abbas inquired with Emir Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani about the negotiations that Doha is facilitating between Israel and the Islamist movement. In a dry press release, the “raïs” engaged Hamas on February 14 “to quickly conclude an exchange of prisoners” with the Jewish State, in order to allow a diplomatic sequence to open, in which it wants to be essential.

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Mr. Abbas fears that the Islamists will gain immense prestige from such an exchange, they who aim to free from Israeli prisons all Palestinian detainees, all political parties combined. The oldest leader in the Arab world also knows he is in difficulty, while his Arab and Western allies demand that the Palestinian Authority “revitalizes” and this “reform” in the post-war period.

Hamas seeks an exit from above

Despite these fears, a close friend of Mr. Abbas, Jibril Rajoub, proposed a reconciliation plan to the leader of the Islamist movement, Ismaïl Haniyeh, in early February in Doha. The secretary general of the Fatah central committee, which has long worked for reconciliation, believes that “Hamas will not disappear. He is part of the Palestinian people.” He therefore engages his managers “to take the first step”he specifies, by recognizing the resolutions of the United Nations as the reference for resolving the conflict, by accepting a Palestinian state within the internationally recognized borders of 1967, and by accepting all the obligations of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a moribund body but which remains the only recognized representative of the Palestinian people abroad, and which Hamas has been seeking to integrate for years.

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