US-Backed Israeli Plan, Executed by Egypt, Behind
the Hamas-Fat'h Reconciliation
By Ramzy Baroud
October 23, 2017
Hamas and Fat'h delegates shaking hands during talks of
Palestinian reconciliation in Cairo, October 22, 2017
What Is Behind the Hamas-Fat'h Reconciliation?
Egypt's enthusiasm to arbitrate between feuding
Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fat'h (Fatah), is not the outcome of a
sudden awakening of conscience. Cairo has, in fact, played a destructive
role in manipulating Palestinian division to its favor, while keeping
the Rafah border crossing under lock and key.
the Egyptian leadership is clearly
operating in coordination with Israel and the United States.
While the language emanating from Tel Aviv and Washington is quite
guarded regarding the ongoing talks between the two Palestinian parties,
if read carefully, their political discourse is not entirely dismissive
of the possibility of having Hamas join a unity government under Mahmoud
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
comments in early October validate this assertion. He did not
categorically reject a Hamas-Fat'h government, but demanded, according
to the Times
of Israel, that "any future Palestinian government must disband the
Hamas armed wing, sever all ties with Iran and recognize the State of
Egyptian President, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, too, would
like to see a weaker Hamas, a marginalized Iran and an agreement that
puts Egypt back at the center of Middle East diplomacy.
the auspices of the Egyptian dictator, Egypt's once central role in the
region’s affairs has faded into a marginal one.
But the Hamas-Fat'h
reconciliation is giving el-Sisi a window of opportunity to rebrand his
country's image which has, in recent years, been tarnished by brutal
crackdowns on his country’s opposition and his miscalculated military
interventions in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.
In September, on
the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly conference in New
met Netanyahu publicly for the first time. The exact nature of their
talks was never fully revealed, although media
reports pointed that the Egyptian leader has attempted to sway
Netanyahu into accepting a Hamas-Fatah unity deal.
In his speech
at the UNGA, el-Sisi also made a passionate, impromptu
appeal for peace. He spoke of an 'opportunity' that must be used to
achieve the coveted Middle East peace agreement and called on US
President Donald Trump to "write a new page of history of mankind" by
taking advantage of that supposed opportunity.
It is difficult
to imagine that el-Sisi, with limited influence and sway over Israel and
the US, is capable of, single-handedly, creating the needed political
environment for reconciliation between Palestinian factions.
Several such attempts have been tried, but failed in the past, most
notably in 2011 and in 2014. As early as 2006, though, the George W.
Bush Administration forbade any such reconciliation, using threats and
withholding of funds to ensure Palestinians remained divided. The Barack
Obama Administration followed suit, ensuring Gaza's isolation and
Palestinian division, while it also supported Israel's policies in this
Unlike previous administrations, Donald Trump has kept
expectations regarding the brokering of a peace agreement low. However,
from the outset, he took Israel's side, promised to relocate the US
embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and appointed a hardliner, David
Friedman, a Zionist par-excellence, as US ambassador to Israel.
No doubt, last June, Trump signed a temporary order to keep the US
embassy in Tel Aviv, disappointing many of his pro-Israel fans, but the
move is by no means an indication of a serious change of policies.
"I want to give that (a plan for
peace) a shot before I even think about moving the
embassy to Jerusalem," Trump
said in a televised interview recently. "If we can make peace
between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it’ll lead to ultimate
peace in the Middle East, which has to happen."
historical precedents, it is quite obvious that Israel and the US have
given a green light to Palestinian reconciliation with a clear objective
in mind. For its part, Israel wants to see Hamas break away from Iran
and abandon armed resistance, while the US wants to get 'a shot' at
playing politics in the region, with Israeli interests being paramount
to any outcome.
Egypt, being the recipient of generous US
military aid, is the natural conduit to guide the Hamas-Fatah
reconciliation component of the new strategy.
suggests that powerful players are
behind the reconciliation efforts is how smooth the
entire process has been so far, in complete contrast with years of
failed efforts and repeated agreements with disappointing outcomes.
What primarily seemed like another futile round of talks hosted by
Egypt, was soon followed by more: first, an initial understanding,
followed by a Hamas agreement to dissolve its administrative committee
that it formed to manage Gaza's affairs; then, a successful visit by the
National Consensus Government to Gaza and, finally, an endorsement of
the terms of national reconciliation by the two most powerful Fatah
bodies: The Fatah Revolutionary Council and the Central Committee.
Since Fat'h controls the Palestinian Authority (PA), the latter
endorsement advocated by Mahmoud Abbas was an important milestone
needed to push the process forward, as both Hamas and Fatah readied
themselves for more consequential talks in Cairo.
previous agreements, the current one will allow Hamas to actively
participate in the new unity government. Top Hamas official, Salah Bardawil
confirmed this in a statement. However, Bardawil also insisted that
Hamas will not lay down its arms, and resistance to Israel is not
US-Israel-Egyptian power play aside, this is,
indeed, the crux of the matter. Understandably, Palestinians are keen to
achieve national unity, but that unity must be predicated on principles
that are far more important than the self-serving interests of political
Moreover, speaking of - or even achieving - unity
without addressing the travesties of the past, and without agreeing on a
national liberation strategy for the future in which resistance is the
foundation, the Hamas-Fat'h unity government will prove as insignificant
as all other governments, which operated with no real sovereignty and,
at best, questionable popular mandates.
Worse still, if the
unity is guided by tacit US support, an Israeli nod and an Egyptian
self-serving agenda, one can expect that the outcome would be the
furthest possible one from the true aspirations of the Palestinian
people, who remain unimpressed by the imprudence of their leaders.
While Israel invested years in maintaining the Palestinian rift,
Palestinian factions remained blinded by pitiful personal interests and
worthless "control" over a militarily occupied land.
It should be made clear that any unity agreement that pays heed to
the interest of factions at the expense of the collective good of the
Palestinian people is a sham; even if it initially ‘succeeds’, in the
long term it will fail, since Palestine is bigger than any individual,
faction or a regional power seeking Israel’s validation and US
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine
Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’
(Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the
University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for
Global and International Studies, University of California Santa
Barbara. His website is
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