Palestinian Reconciliation Moves One Step Closer
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas gestures after delivering a speech to the 7th Fatah Conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo: ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Reconciliation Moves One Step Closer

Palestinian Authority to hold weekly meeting in Gaza, as talk turns towards ending sanctions on Hamas and eventually holding national elections

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah is set to visit Gaza next week for the first time in two years, following a decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to hold its weekly assembly in the Strip. The official Spokesperson for the Palestinian Government of National Reconciliation, Yousef Al-Mahmoud, stated that “Al-Hamdallah made his decision to send PA officials to Gaza following consultations with President Mahmoud Abbas and in order to begin the handover by Hamas of executive power in the Strip.”

Hamas previously agreed to dissolve its Administrative Committee to enable the restoration of PA governance in Gaza. Abbas demanded this as a precondition to national reconciliation, but has not yet fulfilled his pledge to remove restrictions he placed on Gaza this summer; which included reducing the salaries of Hamas government employees, halting the transfer of funds to specific ministries, and witholding the fuel needed to operate Gaza’s power plant.

Speaking to The Media Line, Jamal Muhaisen, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, explained that when Hamas satisfies all of the Palestinian Authorities requirements, the PA will, in turn, consider eliminating restrictions on Gaza. “Hamas has dismantled the Administrative Committee and invited the PA to the Strip,” he confirmed, “however, a meeting will still take place in Cairo and elections must be held in order to form a government representing the Palestinian people.”

Muhaisen conceded that obstacles still remain, such as complications relating to employees and security, but he stressed that for now “what is most important is [Hamas’] intentions.”

And things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Rawhi Fatooh, a former president of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a current member of Fatah’s Central Committee who was part of the PA delegation sent to Egypt for reconciliation talks, explained to The Media Line that while both sides seem positive and committed to the process, this will only be confirmed by actions on the ground.

“Egypt, which has played an important role, will send a delegation to Gaza to make sure both parties are following through,” Fatooh continued. “The Palestinian Authority wants to govern Gaza the way it does in the West Bank, and [Abbas has stated that he] will lift the sanctions once the [new unity] government is in place.”

Previously, the Israel Electric Corporation transferred some 120 megawatts of electricity daily to Gaza; however, that amount was slashed by 40 percent, at the behest of the PA (in order to apply pressure on Hamas), leaving Strip without power much of the time. Nor does Hamas have the funds available to purchase fuel to operate its lone power plant, a factor that likely contributed to the decision to open the door to reunification.

Rami Herbawi, who owns a company in Gaza called Palestinian-app, told to The Media Line that he has been unable to run his office properly since 2013, when the supply of electricity first became erratic. Instead, he said, “most [of my] employees work from their houses or have stopped working altogether, [whereas] for the programmers I rent space at an incubator that has a [diesel] generator.” Each desk at the incubator costs $100 per month.

Much of the international community is supportive of Palestinian reconciliation, with pressure having been placed on Abbas to reverse the actions taken against Hamas in the Strip; this, amid ever-present concern that the humanitarian situation in Gaza could at any moment lead to an explosion of tensions—which, in the past, has then been followed by the explosion of bombs and missiles.

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