Palestinian rival governments form ‘reconciliation committee’ | News from the Palestinian Authority

Adeyemi Adeyemi
Adeyemi Adeyemi

Global Courant

Rival Palestinian political leaders meeting in Egypt have decided to set up a commission for intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met for rare face-to-face talks on Sunday in the coastal town of El Alamein, along with representatives from most of the Palestinian political factions.

The latest attempt at reconciliation aims to bridge the gap between Hamas’s parallel governments in the blockaded Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority — controlled by Abbas’s Fatah movement — which controls the Palestinian-ruled areas of the occupied West Bank.

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“I consider today’s meeting of the secretaries general of the Palestinian factions to be a first and important step in continuing our dialogue, with which we hope that the desired goals will be achieved as soon as possible,” Abbas said in a statement after the meeting.

The 87-year-old president announced “the formation of a commission to continue dialogue… end divisions and achieve Palestinian national unity.”

“We must return to one state, one system, one law and one legitimate army,” Abbas added.

Earlier on Sunday, Haniyeh called on Abbas to end “security cooperation” with Israel and “political arrests,” according to rally participants.

The Hamas leader also said that “a new, inclusive parliament must be formed on the basis of free democratic elections”.

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Hamas won the Palestinians’ last parliamentary election in 2006, but became the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip a year later after wresting power from Fatah, which had attempted a pre-emptive coup to replace the Hamas-led government. Several weeks of violent fighting followed, resulting in Hamas ruling the coastal enclave, while Fatah – the dominant party in the Palestinian Authority – exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

Call for reform of the PLO

A later statement from Abbas said he “hopes for an upcoming meeting soon in Egypt to announce to our people the end” of the 17-year split “and the return to Palestinian national unity.”

Palestinian political scientist Moukhaimer Abu Saada told AFP news agency that the formation of the committee was not cause for celebration.

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“The best way to kill something is to form a committee for it,” he said from Gaza.

He said he doubted the move would make any progress toward “ending the divisions or setting a date for Palestinian elections.”

On Sunday, Haniyeh called for “the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” the umbrella institution that promotes Palestinian statehood. The PLO includes most of the Palestinian political factions, but not Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

The PLO is “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” Abbas said.

“No Palestinian is allowed to have reservations about this organization and its national and political program,” Abbas said. “It is rather necessary to protect it unanimously, because it is considered one of the most important achievements of our people.”

He also called for “peaceful popular resistance”, while Haniyeh praised “comprehensive resistance”.

The last time the two leaders officially met was in Algiers last July, after a five-year gap.

Rise in violence

Abbas and Haniyeh were joined by the leaders of other factions, with the exception of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and two other groups.

The PIJ had made the release of prisoners held by PA security forces a condition of sending representatives to El Alamein.

Khaled al-Batsh, a PIJ leader, said the group had “hoped for a response from Mahmoud Abbas to grievances and calls for release” from its members held in the occupied West Bank.

“We are surprised by an unprecedented security incursion against resistance fighters,” he said.

Sunday’s rally came amid a resurgence of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year alone.

Officials have warned that 2023 is on track to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations began tracking fatalities in 2005.

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Palestinian rival governments form ‘reconciliation committee’ | News from the Palestinian Authority

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