As 80 years have passed from the imperialist decision to create a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine by implementing the infamous Balfour Declaration, local leadership in the occupied territories remain divided, with two main bodies sorted in the Hamas and Fatah movements.
Hamas was formed in December 1987 after the first Intifada, under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), creating one of Palestine’s most organised Islamist entity. Meanwhile, Fatah had origins with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which was formed by the Arab League in 1964 with the attempt to unite several movements and parties, finally be recognised as the representative of the Palestinian people.
The struggle between the two entities can be tracked to March 2006 as Hamas formed a government after winning the parliamentary elections in the beginning of the year, leading to controlling the Gaza Strip and a deteriorating diplomatic relation with Fatah, Western leaders, and some Arab countries. With hopes of reconciliation on the surface, a timeline for former attempts to reconciliation between the conflicting sides can put a fruitful context to the ongoing political manoeuvres.
2006-2007: Hamas wins parliamentary elections, leading to heavy fighting with Fatah. An initiative in February 2007 by late Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in Mecca gathers representatives from the two movements, leading to agreements to stop violence, uniting efforts to counter the Israeli occupation and to create a Palestinian national unity government. However, in June of the same year, Hamas toppled Fatah’s government under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas from the strip, leading to tougher restrictions from Israel and a separation of power between the besieged Gaza Strip and the Western Bank.
2008: In March, the conflicting sides met again in Sanaa, Yemen. The meeting led to the signing of the Sanaa Declaration between Fatah’s Azzam Al-Ahmad and Hamas’ Moussa Abu Marzuk, agreeing to open the dialogue and to return to the political scene of the pre-2007 violence. However, Fatah protested that the agreement emphasised dialogue rather than forming a new government and recognising the powers of the PLO. Hamas, on the other hand, made it clear that to recognise the PLO will mean to agree to terms issued in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which pushed for a two-state solution, hence contradicting Hamas’ primary political ideology that Palestine is a Muslim territory. In the same year, a new round of talks was planned to take part in Cairo, but Hamas declined to attend, in protest of arrests made by Fatah against members of Hamas.
2010-2011: In early 2010, Egyptian-mediated talks started to include the two groups over the possibility of a reconciliation, preaching the holding of new elections. However, Hamas protested that the suggestions included new presidential and parliamentary elections, and re-planning the security apparatus, which would fall under the control of the Palestinian Authority. A point of difference also was that Hamas wanted the treaty to include that Palestinians are to continue countering Israel’s policies, as opposed to the Fatah group. In April 2011, the group agrees to sit down to talk in Cairo, months after an uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. In May, they signed a “historic” agreement, in Egypt’s General Intelligence’s headquarters. The two sides vowed to continue countering Israeli policies and have a unity government. But, on the ground, nothing was implemented.
2012: Hamas and Fatah leaders agree to implement the Cairo Agreement in Doha, Qatar. The agreement was signed in February between Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, and agreed to form a government with non-political agendas, mainly a cabinet of autocrats and to continue resistance Israeli presence, as well as work on reconstructing the Gaza Strip and prepare for the elections. Differences occurred over who will lead the cabinet and whether the new government will stay committed to the obligations done by the PLO, something Hamas rejected. Elections were boycotted by Hamas, which did not allow any polls in Gaza, citing violations and questioning the election’s legitimacy. The elections resulted in forming the Ramallah-based unity government.
2014: After the ouster of Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt suspended support to reconciliation attempts between Fatah-Hamas. The two groups met in April 2014, agreeing to form a unity government. No agreement was reached as Fatah protested that the Hamas Cabinet remains in control of the Gaza strip.
2017: Following the deadly war with Israel in 2014, the deteriorating humanitarian situation of the Gaza, and the bloody clashes with Israeli forces in July 2017, Hamas allowed in October the Ramallah-based unity government to rule over administrative bodies, with hope of forming a new government. The talks are sponsored by Egypt’s intelligence. The two sides are to meet in Cairo.