x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

The long road is getting longer for the Fatah-Hamas deal

The agreement has hit a significant roadblock. Israel must shoulder the blame

Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo earlier this month. Reuters
Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo earlier this month. Reuters

There are times when changes in the region seem to happen at hyper-speed. The unity deal forged between Fatah and Hamas earlier this month may well have been one of those moments. The two factions signed a Palestinian reconciliation agreement with no little haste. It was an unexpected turn and one that this newspaper was cautiously optimistic about. We called it a “glimmer of hope” – in part because the brokered deal was only the beginning of a long road rather than a destination point – and a welcome breakthrough for the Palestinian people. Things appear to be in real danger of falling apart just as quickly. By last Tuesday, Hamas said the unity deal was at risk, citing Mahmoud Abbas’s apparent heel-dragging over easing sanctions on Gaza. Hamas said Mr Abbas was spoiling the “atmosphere for reconciliation”.

Jason Greenblatt, the US special envoy, laid out a series of conditions for the unity deal to work late last week, including making it incumbent on Hamas, still designated a terror organisation, to disarm. Israel has, separately, said that it will not talk to terrorists, effectively consigning the deal to history books before they have even been written. As bilateral pincer movements go, this one was brutally effective. Israel’s intransigence is, of course, its well-established and potent modus operandi. Benjamin Netanyahu and his government understand how preserving the status quo serves their interests while it only further undermines the Palestinian cause.

And it is that that we should dwell on. The Fatah-Hamas deal appeared to offer hope, that most precious commodity, for the Palestinian people. That this brief moment of reconciliation has already fallen foul of Israel seeking to leverage any point of weakness should surprise no one. Only a few months ago, the US president Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of the “deal of the century” in the peace process. That now seems a remote prospect, unless hope can be rekindled.