High-level Hamas and Fatah delegations are scheduled to participate in reconciliation talks in Cairo on Tuesday in a bid to start work on ending the decade-long territorial division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The talks, which are slated to last for three days under the auspices of the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate, are set to take place several weeks after Hamas agreed to dissolve its governing body in Gaza and invite the Palestinian Authority to take its place. Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the PA in 2007 from the territory.
While both rival parties have said they are optimistic about restoring the unity of the West Bank and Gaza, they still have to overcome a number of obstacles to do that.
Over the past week, both parties expressed divergent view about the future of Gaza’s security.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian television last Monday that he would not accept a scenario in which Hamas’s armed wing maintained control of its weapons. Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Egyptian television a day later that, while his party would not cede control of its weapons, it would be prepared to make joint decisions with Fatah about when and how to use them.
In previous reconciliation attempts, Hamas and Fatah failed to reach agreements on the fate of Gaza’s security.
Another major challenge to restoring the unity of the West Bank and Gaza is the issue of Hamas-appointed employees in the Gaza Strip.
Since taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has appointed 40,000 employees to work in Gaza’s ministries.
The PA does not recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas-appointed employees and has tens of thousands of its own employees in the Strip who have not worked for the past 10 years.
While Hamas wants the PA to integrate its 40,000 employees onto its payroll, the PA has said in previous reconciliation attempts it cannot afford to absorb most of them and would like its employees in Gaza to go back to work.
Despite the numerous obstacles, PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousif said he believes there is a strong possibility Hamas and Fatah will overcome their differences.
“Hamas is in a very difficult situation in Gaza and needs to find a way out,” Abu Yousif said in a phone interview. “I am optimistic that we will succeed this time.”
Under Hamas’s rule, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached new levels of crisis with unemployment skyrocketing and basic water and energy infrastructure deteriorating.