The Fatah-Hamas Deal and its Implications for the Middle East Peace Negotiations

On 12 October 2017 Fatah and Hamas signed a “preliminary reconciliation deal” in Cairo. This deal, seen as a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas, will give Fatah full control of the Gaza Strip, formerly in the hands of Hamas. It has been agreed that a government between the two parties is to be formed no later than 1 December 2017.

Image courtesy of Khaled Desouki/AFP, 2017. Some rights reserved.

Israel does not plan to negotiate with this Palestinian government if it is indeed formed, arguing that Hamas is a terrorist organisation fighting for the annihilation of Israel. Only when the Palestinian government meets criteria set by Israel, e.g. the dismantlement of Hamas’ and its recognition of Israel, will Israel be willing to negotiate. As a result, Israel has argued that peace between the two states will be harder to achieve.

The United States, however, sees the reconciliation between the two parties as a positive development, but also stresses the fact that the future Palestinian government must adhere to the Quartet Principles. The main reason given for the U.S.’ positive attitude towards these negotiations is that the US realises the Palestinian Authority needs to be in control of the Gaza strip in order to get nearer to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. The White House has argued that “it is one of the top priorities of its foreign policy to bring peace to the Middle East”.

It is not the first time Fatah and Hamas have sought harmony. In April 2014, an attempt to reconcile between the two parties was met by Israel with a suspension of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for reasons that are not self-evident. This time around, Israel and its allies have set at least 6 criteria to continue negotiations with Palestine.

While the agreements between Fatah and Hamas could have severe consequences for the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, many have previously argued that the peace negotiations had been taken off the table before the 2017 Cairo agreements were ever on the table. Nathan Thrall, journalist for The Guardian, has said that Palestine wants a state on the pre-1967 lines. Both nations see Jerusalem as their dedicated capital, but Israel prefers the Status Quo. The Guardian further points out that “Israel is constantly warned that if it does not soon decide to grant Palestinians citizenship or sovereignty, it will become, at some never-defined future date, an apartheid state”. Israel will most likely only change its position when these warnings materialise. Some Israeli officials are still hoping that in the meantime, Gaza will be annexed by Egypt and the West Bank will be annexed by Jordan. Thrall even goes so far as to say that a peace deal is less likely than in was before the Oslo Accords of 1995. Israeli settlements have become legal under Israeli law, while still illegal under customary international law, and have been actively supported by the Israeli state who loaned money to the Zionist group Amana, whose ideological objective is to settle the West Bank with Jews, in order to build in Amona and Migron.

As a result, it seems that the Fatah Hamas negotiations have not had as severe of an impact on the peace negotiations as one might think, given the recent media attention. Many journalists have argued that as previous negotiations did not succeed, countries are still waiting to see whether this agreement will be accomplished. As December 1st approaches, and a Palestinian government made up of Fatah and Hamas is to be established, one might expect Israel and its allies to have strong reactions. As for now, the status quo seems to prevail.

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