While the April 27 Cairo Agreement took much of the world by surprise, including the infamous security apparatus of Israel, the reunification of Palestine’s two major political factions was the work of years of careful diplomacy between Damascus, Ramallah, Gaza City and Cairo.
When Azam Al-Ahmed of Fateh and Mousa Abu Marzouk of Fateh were invited to Cairo by Egypt’s new intelligence Chief Mourad Mouafi and foreign minister Nabil Al-Arabi, they discussed and signed a document originally forged in 2009 and then adopted by Fateh.
They agreed that security forces would be integrated and commanded by a joint Hamas-fateh defense committee and that the new caretaker government in power until September’s elections would be staffed by technocrats with little political affiliation. Both promised to release prisoners alongside changing other clauses, and Hamas embraced unity.
Hamas’ disdain for Salam Fayyad means the most likely leader of such a caretaker administration would either be Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi or Munib Al Masri, who both helped mediate the unity talks.
“(Conditions) are ripe,” Dr. Barghouthi told the International Middle East Media Center from Damascus in 2007, when he’d met with Abbas and delegates from Hamas, the Democratic Liberation Front, and Islamic Jihad.
Negotiations held in Cairo built on previous talks in Syria, host nation of Hamas’ leaders in exile. They were scuttled last year when Mahmoud Abbas and Bashar al-Assadexchanged angry words, but were revitalized when Israel effectively destroyed the peace talks by continually expanding colonial projects in the West Bank. When Hosni Mubarak fell under the democratic youth movement from Tahrir Square, the status quo of Israeli-Egyptian cooperation evaporated. As Assad begun this month to brutally silence political dissent in Daraa and Damascus, Hamas’ leadership looked towards reunification, perhaps desperately whilst losing their patron.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (R) shakes hands with Palestinian lawmaker and Fatah strongman Azzam al-Ahmed in the Syrian capital Damascus, on September 24, 2010, during a meeting between the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas and Fatah.
Next week, delegations from factions in the West Bank and abroad will travel to Cairo to sign the agreement and form the caretaker government. This level of cooperation is unheard of - and highly lambasted by the US and Israel - since the 2006 fratricide in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has announced plans to open up the Rafah crossing, which could enable meetings inside still-besieged Gaza between all of Palestine’s disparate factions and end the suffering of its 1.5 million citizens. However, continual Israeli assaults, which killed four civilians with tank fire yesterday and many since January, cast doubt on the safety and, paired with Knesset members calling for more brutality, inspires fear of increased hostility.
With flotillas on the way, and May 15th protests planned in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon and Egypt against the Israeli occupation, the democratic movement for liberation in Palestine could be reaching critical mass.