By Ahmad Jamal Wattoo (BA Politics)
After a decade-long rift, Hamas and Fatah announced their reconciliation in Cairo, Egypt on October 12th. This settlement between both Palestinian factions will likely play a large role in strengthening the Palestinians’ bargaining power vis-a-vis Israel.
It has been agreed under the settlement that the Rafah Crossing to Egypt will be reopened under the control of Palestinian Authority (PA)Guards on November 1st. The PA government has also been empowered to carry out its responsibilities in administering the Gaza Strip by December 1st. While both parties already agreed several weeks prior to the settlement that the PA would take responsibility for Gaza, they had not previously set a conclusive deadline.
Furthermore, a PA-formed committee will resolve the employees issue by February 1st. While the committee works to resolve the employees issue and after the PA is enabled to carry out its administrative and financial powers in Gaza including tax collection, the PA will pay the Hamas-appointed employees their salaries.
After Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from Gaza in 2007, the PA ordered their estimated 55,000 employees in the small coastal enclave not to report to work. In response, Hamas appointed some 40,000 new employees, who have run Gaza’s ministries and other government institutions for more than the past ten years.
Hamas has said it wants the PA to absorb of all of its employees onto its payroll as a final solution to the employees issue. Meanwhile, Fatah has said it wants to resolve the employees issue, but cautioned that it cannot pay for every Hamas-appointed employee.
Furthermore, according to the agreement, border crossings in Gaza with Israel and Egypt will be transferred to the PA by November 1st.
Fatah Central Committee member, Azzam al-Ahmad on Thursday told a press conference at the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate in Cairo that the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings between Gaza and Israel would be handed over to the PA by November 1st. However, he said the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt would likely be transferred to the PA later than November 1st.
PA security leaders will go to Gaza to discuss ways and mechanisms to rebuild the security services with relevant parties.
According to Azzam al-Ahmad, the two parties agreed that the US-trained PA Presidential Guard will control the Egyptian-Gazan border. However, it is unclear if they reached any other security arrangements.
A major point of disagreement on security between the two parties is the future of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Izzadin Kassam hand over its weapons, while Hamas’s leadership has said this will not happen.
Hamas’s armed wing has 25,000 members, who have thousands of weapons including firearms, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.
A meeting in Cairo will take place in the first week of December to evaluate the implementation of what was agreed between Hamas and Fatah.
All the Palestinian factions that signed the Cairo reconciliation agreement in 2011, will meet on November the 14th in the Egyptian capital to discuss the 2011 agreement.
In addition to the aforementioned six clauses, the agreement included a preamble; it refers, among other things, to achieving Palestinian unity for the sake of “ending the occupation, establishing a sovereign Palestinian state on all of the lands occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of refugees.”