JERUSALEM, Israel – Rival Palestinian factions – Fatah and Hamas – plan to meet in Damascus on November 9, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas military wing, reported on its website.
Next week’s meeting is part of an ongoing effort to reconcile the two parties, which share many common goals, expressed differently.
According to Palestinian Authority officials, disputes with Syria – not Hamas – caused a temporary cancellation of the “second round of reconciliation talks,” now rescheduled for next week.
The first meeting in Damascus took place on October 24, though Fatah and Hamas have been trying to reconcile for at least two years.
Arab League member nations, among them Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen, have tried to convince both groups that a coalition government would strengthen the Palestinian position in talks with Israel.
But a Palestinian unity government, which included Hamas, would inevitably torpedo peace talks with Israel because Islamic ideology leaves little room for peaceful coexistence with Jews or Christians.
Hamas advocates strict adherence to traditional Muslim lifestyle in women’s dress, separation of the sexes, and other components of sharia (Islamic) religious law, while Fatah allows its followers more freedom of choice.
Some European Union members – in particular Great Britain – have called to include Hamas in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but Israel – backed by the U.S. – is not in favor of granting legitimacy to a known terror group.
The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah came to a head in June 2007 in a bloody military coup that left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip.
Within a week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the three-month-old unity government formed after Saudi-mediated talks in Mecca in January. The meeting produced the Mecca Accords, which formed the basis for the PA unity government.
Following the coup, Abbas created an emergency government – still in force today – deposing newly appointed Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister and appointing Salam Fayyad, a popular figure with the United States and other Western governments, in his place.
Over the next two years, rounds of Egyptian-mediated negotiations between the two Palestinian factions never succeeded in reconciliation.
Fatah officials, including Abbas, would not visit the Gaza Strip or vice versa. Fatah security forces in Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – cracked down on Hamas-affiliated groups in cities under their control, fearing a similar takeover.
Insofar as Israel is concerned, the two groups have more in common than most people realize.
The Hamas charter calls for the defeat of the Zionists, justifying rocket attacks or any other terrorist acts as legitimate resistance against the “occupiers.”
While the Western world thinks of Hamas as a terror group, Fatah is viewed as moderate. But Fatah’s charter also calls for “resistance” – a euphemism for any kind of attacks against Israelis.
Less publicized is Fatah’s view that Israel will eventually morph into Palestine, as seen in the PA’s school curriculum, cultural events, radio and television programming, official maps and government documents – often exposed by the Palestinian Media Watch.