How the Palestinian “Unity” Talks Put Iran in the Mix
On October 16, 2017, the Fatah leadership met in Ramallah (the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority) and took no decision to remove the penalties they imposed on Gaza. Hamas’ official website reacted angrily. The movement’s mouthpiece Al-Risalasought the views of the spokesmen of “the organizations,” and they all said they were disappointed that Fatah was not responding to Hamas’ positive measures and was acting to scuttle the reconciliation efforts.
Why is this important? Because the next stop in the “road map” prepared by Egypt is a large conference of “the organizations” in Cairo aimed at hitching them to the reconciliation train and committing them to an agreement if it is reached.
Who are “the organizations”? All of them are armed, radical groups that are not prepared to give up the struggle against Israel; they include the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Islamic Jihad, and others. Because Iran has a strong standing among several of these groups, such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front, adding them to the reconciliation process also entails adding Iran as an actor seeking to obstruct and thwart it.
Behind the organizations’ backs, Hamas has been proclaiming that it expects the penalties Mahmoud Abbas imposed on it to be lifted and that if this is not done, the whole process will come to a halt. Hamas says that it will not be to blame, but rather Ramallah will be at fault and that it will be “the organizations,” not Hamas, that will put a stop to the process.
Incidentally, according to information from sources in Ramallah about the Cairo talks, the Fatah representatives opposed the inclusion of “the organizations.” Egypt, however, backed Hamas’ support for adding them so that Hamas could commit them to a truce with Israel in case the reconciliation succeeds – or if Ramallah does not remove the penalties, use them as a means to harass Fatah.