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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Réconciliation en vue entre le Fatah et le Hamas?

by Hassane Zerrouky

Reconciliation in Sight Between Fatah and Hamas? ?

Translated Tuesday 5 January 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, the Hamas leader declared that an accord with Fatah is possible, while Washington itself is about to put forward a new peace plan.

On a visit to Saudi Arabia, Khaled Meshal, leader of the Hamas executive committee, declared that inter-Palestinian reconciliation is on the right track. “We are now in the last stages (…) We are all agreed that the reconciliation accord will be signed in Cairo,” the Islamist leader firmly declared after meeting Prince Saud al-Faisal who is in charge of Saudi Arabian diplomacy. “We hope that Saudi Arabia will play a specific part, together with Egypt and other Arab countries, to underwrite the Palestinian reconciliation accord and help the two parties to reach a compromise, and to stand up to the Israeli government, which has been in a position to call the tune,” he added. Khaled Meshal did not however specify when the reconciliation so ardently desired by Palestinians would take place.

It will be remembered that when Fatah last October signed the Cairo document that set the presidential and general elections on the West Bank and in Gaza on January 25, 2010, Hamas reserved its answer. Lacking an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the OLP leadership, on 16 December, decided to postpone the two polls and extend President Mahmud Abbas’ terms at the head of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Parliament in order, they said, to avoid a political vacuum and an institutional crisis.

The fact remains that the visit of Khaled Meshal, who is said to have solicited Riyadh’s mediation in the conflict that pits Hamas against Fatah, takes place in a context where a new US peace plan (yet another?) is in the air. Have the Saudi Arabians, who are about to receive the US envoy George Mitchell, sounded out Meshal on this question?

However that may be, the plan devised by Washington, according to the Maariv daily, allows two years for negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and on the Gaza strip based on the 1949-1967 armistice border. Compensations are also envisaged in the form of land swaps. Once this first dossier is settled, further negotiations would tackle other issues: the final status of Jerusalem and the return of the Palestinian refugees that left after the 1948 war. This plan has probably something to do with yesterday’s meeting between Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian president Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh, a meeting that took place three days after the meeting with Benyamin Netanyahu in Cairo, and before the arrival of the US envoy in Egypt in the next few days.

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