Experts believe the Palestinian arena has faced increasing complications since 2007.
Heavyweight regional mediator Qatar has the ability to bridge differences between rival Palestinian factions, though deep internal divisions between Palestine’s parties stand in the way of such efforts, analysts told Doha News on Monday.
The remarks came after a meeting on Sunday in the Egyptian city of El-Alamein that brought together different Palestinian factions, including Ramallah’s Fatah party and Gaza’s Hamas, in yet another attempt to achieve national “unity”.
Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas chaired the talks and met with the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh on the sidelines of the meeting in Egypt.
During his speech, President Abbas pointed to a list of countries who previously contributed to efforts in bringing an end to disputes between Palestine’s political factions.
“I thank all sisterly and friendly countries, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan Turkiye, Russia, and China for their efforts,” Abbas said, listing the countries that played a role in attempting to break an internal Palestinian deadlock.
Analysts believe Qatar is in a “unique” position to play a mediating role given its positive relations between Fatah and Hamas.
“I think Qatar is uniquely positioned to play a constructive role in this sense. It still contains a clean slate, if you will, with the Palestinian people, which is more important than the factions. The reputation of Qatar in the eyes of the average Palestinian is positive,” Khalil Jahshan, Executive Director at the Arab Center Washington DC, told Doha News on Monday.
Qatar has long stood alongside the people of Palestinian and refuses to normalise with Israel. Doha’s stance has earned praise among Palestinians and supporters of the cause, especially in 2020 when it refused to join in on a regional wave of normalisation.
Under the so-called Abraham Accord, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain officially normalised relations Israel, before Sudan and Morocco followed suit in 2021.
While Jahshan said “Qatar has a very important role to play in politics, whether in the United Nations or the West, particularly with the United States,” he pointed to deep internal divisions within Palestinian factions that he said stand in the way of international efforts to attain tangible results.
“The problem, I think is internal, within the Palestinian body politics, it’s essentially the inability of both sides to compromise, the inability of both sides to meet the other side halfway,” the Palestinian-American analyst said.
Qatar had attempted to mediate between the two sides in October 2006, when Hamas and Fatah were locked in a bitter war. The war came to an end with the 2007 Saudi-sponsored Mecca Agreement.
The conflict resulted in the killing of more than 600 Palestinians and the division of territories between the parties. Hamas currently governs the besieged Gaza Strip while Fatah holds the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Ramallah.
In 2012, Qatar brokered the Fatah–Hamas Doha Agreement, which was signed at the time between Abbas and former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, though internal disputes between the two parties have remained.
Qatar had also hosted dialogue between Fatah and Hamas in 2016 in an effort to discuss the implementation of a 2014 agreement that had stipulated the formation of a Palestinian unity government to oversee legislative and presidential elections.
However, tensions between the parties torpedoed all prospects of the deal.
The recent meeting was held just months after 14 Palestinian factions signed the Algeria Declaration in October, following talks aimed at ending more than a decade-long division between the parties.
Qatar welcomed the move at the time and described it as a “positive step” in Palestine’s national unity as well as “a consolidation of the national project to establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders”.
Speaking to the Palestinian parties in Egypt, President Abbas called for the formation of a follow-up reconciliation committee from the participants in Egypt to complete the intra-Palestinian dialogue.
“President Abbas asked the committee to start working immediately to accomplish its mission and to submit the agreements or recommendations it reaches,” Palestine’s news agency (WAFA) reported.
Despite the positive remarks, analysts have remained skeptical over the ability to reach an agreement amid an absence of coordination between Fatah and Hamas as well as other parties.
“Unfortunately, Palestinian politics has only one constant in recent history and that is deterioration,” Jahshan said.
The Palestinian-American expert said the Palestinian arena has for a number of reasons faced increasing complications since 2007, including internal political failures and an absence in democracy.
“The problem has always been the absence of democracy, the absence of a healthy form of governance, the inability of Fatah to rule democratically, and the inability of Hamas to play the opposition in a diplomatic way,” he said.
British-Palestinian academic and political activist, Azzam Tamimi, also has his own doubts over the possibility of a reconciliation between the Palestinian parties.
“There is a famous popular saying in the Palestinian vernacular that goes as follows: ‘Those who keep trying what’s already tried, must be illogical’,” Tamimi told Doha News.
Tamimi pointed the blame to the leaders of Hamas who had agreed since 2005 to engage in what he described as a “hopeless project”.
“Though I do understand that they have constantly come under enormous pressure from friends and foes alike to reconcile and work for what is called ‘national unity’,” Azzam said.
Role of the PLO
During his speech, President Abbas stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is “the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, dismissing “reservations” over its national role.
Abbas was elected as the president of the Palestinian Authority PA in 2005, succeeding the late Yasser Arafat following his death. The election marked the start of a long 17-term presidency.
Despite numerous efforts by countries of the region, the PLO leader has yet to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.
However, the PLO has long received criticism over its lack of action within the Palestinian cause, especially in the aftermath of the controversial Oslo Accords which are widely seen to have allowed Israel to exist on illegally occupied lands.
The British-Palestinian expert added that the Palestinian people in the present are in need of a leadership “with clear vision” and not reconciliation, Tamimi said.
“Our struggle in Palestine is against a racist colonial settlement project and whoever among the Palestinians collaborates with such a project is no less an enemy of our people and no less an impediment,” Tamimi explained.