Palestine Domestic Politics Part III

Hamas elections and new policy paper

On May 6, 2017, Ismail Haniyye was elected as the new chairman of the Hamas Politburo. He replaced Khaled Mashaal, who had held the office since 1996. Ismail Haniyye won the election against Mussa Abu Marzouk and Mohammed Nassal. The election took place via video conference of the members of the Shura Council. Like his predecessor, Haniyye belongs to the moderate wing of Hamas. Until February 2017, Haniyye was the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This office was then taken over by Yahia al-Sinwar.

According to DISEASESLEARNING, the elections took place a few days after a 1988 amendment to the Hamas Charter was published. The 42-point Basic Principles and Guidelines document accepts a Palestinian state within the borders before the 6-day war of June 1967 with (East) Jerusalem as capital and the right of return for the Palestinian refugees as a temporary solution. However, the liberation of all of Palestine will continue to be sought as a natural right of all peoples to self-determination and a legitimate act of self-defense. It differentiates between Jews as a religious community on the one hand and the occupation and the Zionist project on the other and emphasizes that it is only in conflict with the Zionists. The Oslo Accords and the related obligations, and in particular the security cooperation of the Palestinian Authority with Israel, are rejected. The document also highlights the central role women play in the resistance, the liberation and building of the Palestinian state. The movement is also committed to pluralism and democracy. The Israeli government immediately rejected the paper as a deception. The Palestinian Authority and the press in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also sharply criticized the policy paper.

Palestine Hamas elections

Reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas

On October 12, 2017, Fatah and Hamas signed another reconciliation agreement in Cairo. After 2011 and 2014, this is the third attempt to overcome the conflict that has existed for more than ten years between the two main political movements in Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas told AFP news agency that the current deal is now a “final agreement” to settle the dispute.

The agreement is based on the agreement reached in 2011. The new unity government should take over full administration of the Gaza Strip by December 1 at the latest. A joint commission is to work out a solution for merging the civil servants’ apparatus. According to media reports, Fatah agreed to keep the 30-40,000 Hamas employees in the administration. The appointment of an interior minister for the Gaza Strip is planned to be responsible for security. 3,000 police officers from the Palestinian Authority (PA) should also ensure internal security. Both Fatah and Hamas will be present at the border crossings in the future. Responsibility for the Rafah crossing will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Presidential Guard will be responsible for the building complex. A PA representative arrived in Gaza on October 16, 2017 in preparation for the implementation of this agreement.

It is still unclear what will happen to Hamas’ armed arm, the Qassam Brigades. Hamas had announced that it would not give up armed resistance against Israel. Abbas stressed, however, that the Palestinian Authority must have all controls.

Egypt invited all Palestinian factions that had signed the reconciliation agreement in 2011 to hold talks in Cairo on November 21, 2017. The preparation of parliamentary and presidential elections should also be discussed at this round of talks. After the talks, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil expressed disappointment with the results.

On December 21, 2017, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahia al-Sinwar, declared that the agreement of October 12, 2017 was about to fail. The two crucial points of contention are 1. control of the weapons (Mahmoud Abbas demands full control of the PA over all weapons and security in the Gaza Strip and Hamas still does not want to surrender the weapons) and 2. what about the more than 40,000 Hamas employees in the Gaza Strip are to pass.

The two million residents of the Gaza Strip continue to hope that they will soon have more than four hours of electricity a day. In the past few months, the Palestinian Authority had forced Hamas to the negotiating table by restricting Israeli electricity supplies and wage cuts at the request of Mahmoud Abbas.

In mid-September 2017, Hamas had already agreed to dissolve its administration in the Gaza Strip, which was then followed by further steps and meetings.

In September 2020, Fatah and Hamas again agreed to hold free and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections as well as elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO, within six months of proportional representation. The two parties brought together the political developments of the last few months: the US proposal published in January 2020 to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli government’s announcement that it intends to annex large parts of the Jordan Valley and the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations.