Hamas and Fatah’s Step Forward Takes Palestine a Step Back

Why Reconciliation Hurts the Palestinian People

Head of the Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

Last week, the government of Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank began reconciliation talks in Cairo, following a week of symbolic cabinet meetings and visits by high-ranking Egyptian officials to the Gaza Strip. The proceedings have remained closely guarded, but within a few days, Hamas and Fatah officials announced that a deal had been reached over how to jointly govern Gaza, which involves Fatah controlling the border crossing with Egypt and the deployment of 3,000 Palestinian Authority security forces in the Gaza Strip.

The talks have come after a decade–long rift between the two political groups. In 2007, fighting broke out after Hamas won a majority in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and Fatah and its allies refused to accept the results. Since then, the conditions in Gaza have worsened due to an Israeli-imposed blockade. Levels of poverty and unemployment have increased dramatically. Gazans have been cut off for an entire decade from essential building materials and food–stuffs, as well as from access to their own resources, such as offshore gas reserves. These conditions have been coupled with repeated assaults by Israel, which have overall made life untenable for ordinary Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. 

Post–Arab Spring politics in the Middle East have also complicated life in Gaza. In 2013, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who became president of Egypt after leading a coup against the Muslim Brotherhood–backed president Mohamed Morsi, reinforced the blockade on Gaza from the Egyptian border to punish Hamas for its relationship with Morsi. Similarly, because Hamas did not take the Syrian regime’s side during Syria’s uprising and ensuing civil war, President Bashar al-Assad and his sponsor Iran severed ties with the group. And this past June, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a blockade on Qatar, one of the only Arab countries with remaining ties to Hamas. Around this time, the Palestinian Authority also began punishing Gaza, in order to weaken Hamas, by cutting off

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