Palestinian Political Unity Hits Election-Snag

Could Hamas join the Palestinian security forces? (Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock)

Efforts to reconcile the main Palestinian political groups are once again taking a “two-steps forward, one-step backwards” approach, as divisions on the issue of holding joint elections appear to be the latest complication. While an official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction said almost every issue was resolved with the terror group Hamas, the Ma’an News Agency reported Abbas as saying Hamas is opposed to the timing for elections.

The two main Palestinian factions had a bloody split in 2007 when Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip in a coup. Despite years of efforts to reconcile the factions back into one Palestinian government, agreements and plans have so far failed to fully materialize.

Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel or reject violence has raised serious concerns about its reconciliation with Fatah. As recently as last November, Hamas fought a war with Israel. Later Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal said they would not relinquish any of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—effectively denouncing Israel’s right to exist.

On Tuesday, the WAFA Palestinian news agency reported a Fatah official involved in the discussions with Hamas, Azzam al-Ahmad, said the two groups had agreed on nearly every matter—including the security forces. While he was not reported as saying anything about the counterterrorism cooperation between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, the joint security effort has long been one of the concerns of Fatah reuniting with Hamas in the PA.

Al-Ahmad went on to say, according to WAFA, that beginning next week Fatah and Hama were to hold talks in Cairo regarding a new government. Those discussions were to wrap up by the end of March.

However, Abbas’ comments regarding Hamas and elections appear to cast doubt on how soon the groups can implement a deal. Ma’an quoted Abbas as saying that “our brothers in Hamas do not want us to carry out elections at this stage.” The plan is for Abbas to eventually announce a unity government with Hamas along with a date for elections.

Said Abbas, “An agreement has been reached with Hamas that we form a unity government to be headed by me, then we have parliamentary elections and Palestinian National Council elections three months after the Central Elections Commission is ready for elections.” The Central Elections Commission is currently working on voter registration.

Ma’an cited Hamas’ Meshaal as telling the Palestine Information Center that the Gaza-based group had agreed elections were needed, but only when the conditions were right.

Regardless of when elections are ultimately held, Fatah has made it clear they want the two groups to be part of a fully united Palestinian government. WAFA quoted al-Ahmad as saying of plans for unity, “We will have one president and one government.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 14, 2013)