After a new round of talks in Cairo, Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have announced an initial, partial reconciliation agreement. Despite continuing obstacles, this latest attempt to reunify the long-divided Palestinian political system shows signs of potential progress. Egypt is demonstrating a new proactive willingness to mediate between the Palestinian factions and work with Hamas, having forged a constructive relationship with Yahia Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Nevertheless, obstacles to a deal remain, with both Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bluntly demanding the total disarmament of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades. It remains to be seen whether Egypt will be able to impose a settlement that leads to elections and the emergence of Palestinian leadership with a renewed democratic mandate, but the November 1 handover of Gaza’s border crossings to the P.A. is a significant positive sign.

Key Points

  • Internal political divisions and overdue elections have undermined the legitimacy of Palestinian leaders, hampered internal Palestinian dialogue regarding the future of their national movement, and contributed to the cycle of Israel-Gaza wars.
  • President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who sees Palestinian unity as fundamental to resolving the wider conflict, is showing renewed commitment to reconciliation.
  • The Palestinian factions must reach agreement on the status of Hamas’s controversial armed group, the Qassam Brigades, as a key step toward sharing political power.
  • Hamas appears ready for partial compromise with Egypt and Fatah, and is willing to give up a modicum of control in Gaza. If President Mahmoud Abbas is perceived to be obstructing this Egyptian-backed effort, it could damage his relations with Cairo and open the door for exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan to play a wider role in Gaza.

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