Egypt's recent efforts to mediate the reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah align with Stratfor's Annual Forecast, which noted that many Middle Eastern powers fear that renewed violence between Israel and Palestine could compound problems within their own countries. How the relations between Israel and the new unity government in Palestine unfold could have region-wide implications.
A power-sharing arrangement between rival Palestinian groups has begun to materialize, but the work is far from over. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced on Oct. 12 that feuding Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah reached a reconciliation agreement during talks held in Cairo. The new arrangement grants administrative control over the Gaza Strip to a unity government formed between the two groups. (Sources vary on the date of the handover — some say Nov. 1, others Dec. 1.)
Hamas and Fatah have been in heated conflict for the past decade over administrative control of the Gaza Strip. In 2006, an electoral upset forced the West Bank-based Fatah to include Hamas in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). But the partnership dissolved after Hamas formed a separate governing body designed to prevent Fatah, which holds a majority in the PNA, from asserting control over the Gaza Strip. For Hamas, dominating the Gaza Strip is essential for recruiting members to its militant wing and for maintaining political influence among the civilians. However, the Gaza Strip is facing economic challenges that could threaten Hamas' public support.
Under the terms of the new agreement, around 3,000 Fatah-backed security officers will join the Gaza police force. The unity government, with some Egyptian supervision, will also have administrative control over the Rafah crossing point, located on the Gaza-Egypt border. In the coming weeks, the Palestinian parties will likely discuss the details of their joint administration of the Gaza Strip, such as the tens of thousands of Gazan civil servants that have gone unpaid for months. Reportedly, PNA President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the Gaza Strip within a month after signing the agreement.
Despite the unity deal, Hamas and Fatah may still encounter familiar setbacks. Past talks between the two have collapsed when the parties began to address more substantive issues, such as disarming Hamas. Yet, if Abbas does indeed visit the Gaza Strip, his first time since 2007, it would be a notable sign toward long-term progress.