President Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh made headlines when they recently engaged in a rare face-to-face meeting in El Alamein. The gathering was attended by representatives from a majority of Palestinian political factions, and it aimed to address the longstanding divide between Hamas, governing the blockaded Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas’s Fatah movement, governing areas in the occupied West Bank.
However, the meeting did not include representatives from Islamic Jihad and two other minor groups. Islamic Jihad had set a condition for their participation in the talks, demanding the release of prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority.
During the meeting, Haniyeh urged Abbas to put an end to “security collaboration” with Israel and “political arrests.” He emphasized the importance of holding free democratic elections to form an inclusive parliament, a proposal that Hamas has consistently advocated. On the other hand, Abbas stressed the significance of ending the division that emerged after the 2006 legislative polls and underscored the need for a unified state, system, law, and legitimate army.
In response to the meeting, Abbas announced the formation of a committee to continue the dialogue and work towards achieving Palestinian national unity. The committee aims to bring an end to the 17-year split, raising hopes for reconciliation. However, some Palestinians expressed skepticism about the committee’s potential impact on ending the division or setting a date for elections.
The talks occurred amidst an increase in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in the West Bank. Throughout the year, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis in various incidents. The situation remains tense and complex, with different factions advocating for distinct forms of resistance and representation.
Despite the challenges and ongoing violence, the meeting signifies a rare attempt at reconciliation between the Palestinian factions. It holds the potential to address critical issues and pave the way for a unified stance against Israel’s occupation, while also presenting an opportunity to pursue broader statehood aspirations. As the region navigates through these intricate dynamics, the outcome of this historic meeting could shape the future trajectory of Palestinian politics and their quest for a just and lasting resolution to the conflict.