By Fahed Khitan
International, regional, and Arab reactions over the Palestinian reconciliation agreement could not have been absent from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s mind.
Abbas was aware, before signing the agreement in Gaza that the US would object to, Israel will punish, and that heads of the Arab and Gulf states will not like the return of Hamas to the Palestinian scene.
And more than that, Abbas was aware that the recent reconciliation efforts do not differ in substance from the previous reconciliation that ended in failure. Leaders of the Hamas are also disillusioned; the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not changed and will not change. Before the ink died on the agreement in Gaza, the PA president returned to emphasizing the fundamentals of the position of Israel.
But there was no other way out of this impasse.
The PA — and after the failure of the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the revival of the peace negotiations — stands on the edge between two dangers: Collapsing or dissolving itself.
Regain the initiative on the Palestinian arena requires an internal step, if only to prepare for a new attempt to resume negotiations.
The PA had no cards left other than to threaten with reconciliation with Hamas. This is what happened; after years of deadlock, negotiators and mediators succeeded in signing an agreement within twenty-four hours. By coincidence, this historic breakthrough occurred a few days after the Palestinians and Israelis admitted failing at peace talks.
Hamas no longer has anything to lose. Developments since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the complexity of the situation in Syria, and a shift in attitude towards the Gulf countries — a prominent political Islam movements — put Hamas in an awkward position.
It has been looking like an isolated and embattled movement; Israel strangling it in Gaza and the Egyptian regime imposed blockade on its crossings.
Both the PA and Hamas did not find any other way other than to escape forward; make-believe reconciliation to buy time, waiting to see the developments the situation in the region would bring.
The two parties gave themselves a deadline of five weeks to form a government of national unity, Abbas formed pre-empted the announcement by announcing the main lines of his program: The government will recognize Israel's legitimacy, and will continue its efforts to revive the peace process. Because he realizes Hamas’s dilemma, he did not want to overload it, and decided to exempt Hamas from recognizing Israel, but only required its government representatives to abide by this condition.
Hamas did not argue much, perhaps they were also aware of the many pitfalls that will appear in the way of forming a government, delaying such demands.
Reconciliation is not hinged on internal factors only, but also on international and Arab requirements. The machinations of those states who do not wish for the reconciliation to materialize began operating since now to thwart it. Many Gulf states have opened lines of communication with Israel, diligently. America is hinting at economic sanctions, and Israel has decided to stop transferring the PA’s shares of the tax and fees. It is certain that some Arab states have told the PA that they will not deal with Hamas’s ministers in the government.
The PA and Hamas knew these facts before signing the agreement. But the whole thing is just a tactical move, after which the two sides revert back to previous situation, and reconciliation remains an elusive goal.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.