What prompted the agreement?
The difficult internal conditions in the Palestinian territories has led to a situation in which the most politically favourable solution for both Fatah and Hamas is to attempt to reconcile. Fatah took advantage of Hamas’ deteriorating situation (the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the weakening of backer Qatar) to increase pressure on the organisation by imposing severe sanctions. The agreement allows Hamas to transfer some of the responsibility for the territories it controls to the official structures of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Fatah hopes that regaining effective control over the entire Palestinian Territories will strengthen its position as the main Palestinian political force. Egypt’s mediation, supported by the other Arab states, played a major role in reaching the agreement.
What are the main points of the agreement?
The Palestinian Authority will regain administrative control of the Gaza Strip by 1 December. This includes management of border crossings, especially the key passage with Egypt in Rafah. Hamas is to dismantle the administrative structures it created. Fatah pledged to withdraw the sanctions imposed on Hamas. In addition, 3,000 police officers from the West Bank will be deployed to the Gaza Strip. In the near future, committees will be set up to negotiate specific issues. Ultimately, Fatah and Hamas will form a national unity government and will hold the first election since 2006.
What are the most difficult issues between Fatah and Hamas?
The most important question is the disarmament of Hamas’ military wing, the nearly 27,000-strong Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. President Abbas declared that he would not allow a “Hezbollah option”—the participation of a political entity with its own armed forces in the government. Disarmament is firmly rejected by Hamas authorities. The future of the more than 40,000 Hamas officials in charge of the Gaza administration is under debate since they will lose their jobs after the return of the PA’s official representatives. Although Fatah committed to continue to pay them a portion of their salaries, the situation could generate tensions in the future.
Will the deal last?
Although previous attempts to end the conflict between Fatah and Hamas failed, the present process has a good chance of success. Both parties need consolidation and increased legitimacy, which can only be achieved by national reconciliation. The failure of this attempt could reduce support for the whole process among Palestinians.
The agreement could have a positive impact on the future peace process, as long as it will be the next step in the de-radicalisation of Hamas. Israel and the U.S. reject the possibility of Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government until it disarms and recognises Israel and previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Failure to meet these demands might result in a repeat of the 2006 scenario in which the international community imposed sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.