The two Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fatah have been enemies for nearly two decades. However, the current geopolitical situation which is increasingly isolating Palestinians and their cause is now forcing them to overcome their differences.
Hamas-Fatah Meet to Unify Against Israel
Representatives of both groups met on Tuesday in the Turkish capital Ankara. The talks aim to end more than 13 years of division, said Khalil al-Hajja, a high-ranking Hamas representative. The meeting also served to implement the results of an earlier meeting between the General Secretaries of the two rival factions, which took place in Ramallah and Beirut in early September.
Here, Palestinian factions tried to re-establish unity against Israel and to eliminate political divisions. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas agreed to form a joint leadership group called the Unified National Leadership for Popular Resistance made up of all factions in order to ensure “comprehensive popular resistance” against the Israeli occupation. As a result, the Palestinian state will push back against the validity of the so-called “Arab Consensus” and reject the idea that it has been isolated due to recent developments.
What is the ‘Arab Consensus’?
The consensus has always been that Arab states will only normalize relations with Israel if Israel satisfies a number of conditions to guarantee Palestinian rights. One of them is that Israel will pull out of all areas that it has been involved in since the 1967 Six-Day War in which the Arab states attacked Israel and lost significant amounts of territory. Another is to agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, while the third is to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Previously, representatives of both organizations had called for a joint fight against Israel’s possible annexations in the West Bank at the beginning of July.
Assessing Fatah and Hamas
The more moderate Fatah of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the largest Palestinian organization, while the Islamist Hamas is the second largest. Since 2007, Fatah has only ruled in the parts of the West Bank that are not administered by Israel. It was driven from the Gaza Strip by Hamas.
All attempts at reconciliation have so far failed. The last talks were held in 2017. Since then, leading representatives of both organizations have not sat down at the negotiating table.
Israel, the US, and the EU classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. The group, founded in 1987 and supported by Iran, denies Israel’s right to exist and calls for the forcible establishment of an Islamic Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. Their military arm has repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
Putting the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Context
Tuesday’s talks come days after the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain signed US-brokered agreements to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The so-called Abraham Accord has emphasized how isolated Palestinians have become in the Arab world.
Saudi-Arabia could soon join the UAE and Bahrain in agreeing to official diplomatic ties with Israel. The Gulf states are increasingly interested in good relations with Israel for economic and geopolitical reasons. Furthermore, all share the same enemy in Iran, which remains determined to destabilize the region for its regional hegemonic aspirations.
The Palestinian Cause Has Been Severely Weakened
Hamas’ and Fatah’s meeting is a testimony of how detrimental the situation has become for the Palestinians. The militants’ extremism approach, violence, and antisemitism will not only continue to exacerbate the conflict but also further alienate Arab nations and thus strengthen Israel’s position in the conflict.
The change within the Arab world could have been an opportunity for the Palestinians to seek lasting peace. However, as the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once famously stated, “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
The forced rapprochement of Hamas and Fatah because of how isolated Palestine has become on the world stage is the latest example proving Eban’s words.