The Egyptians are working to fix the ongoing rift between the Hamas terrorist group that controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority—led by President Mahmoud Abbas and controlling territory in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank)—and to that end Abbas met with their delegation to talk on Saturday. The Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank have been controlled by rival factions since 2007, when Hamas threw the PA out of Gaza in a violent coup. Since then, multiple attempts to reconcile the sides—considered by some to be a key step before the Palestinians can sign a lasting peace deal with Israel but what also could reintegrate a recognized terrorist group into the official Palestinian government—have faltered.
The latest effort by Egypt included a visit by members of the Egyptian General Intelligence with Abbas in his de facto capital of Ramallah, according to the WAFA Palestinian News Agency. The meeting and PA leader Abbas’ direct involvement comes just days after United States Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt slammed the PA for their lack of involvement in finding a solution for Gaza. The White House Special Representative for International Negotiations, in a State Department press release last week, told the PA to get involved in fixing Gaza or “others will fill that void.” Greenblatt also said the Donald Trump Administration “strongly supports” Egyptian efforts to “help facilitate an agreement to restore calm in Gaza and bring about the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza.”
The Egyptian visitors on Saturday, according to the WAFA report, highlighted their country’s efforts to reunite the main Palestinian political factions. That reconciliation of sides would be within the Palestinian Authority entity and led by Abbas, implicitly ruling out leadership by Hamas or a third party. The WAFA report said that the Palestinians on Abbas’ side and the Egyptians committed to ongoing talks on coordination of reconciliation efforts.
The PA isn’t the only group in apparently stalled talks with Hamas. Israel too has been interested in a more substantial ceasefire to put an end to on-again, off-again conflict but so far nothing has been announced.
On Sunday, a press release from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he informed the families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin—two missing-in-action Israeli soldiers whose bodies are believed to be held by Hamas—that “there would be no arrangement in the Gaza Strip without the return of the boys.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 2, 2018)