Articles > > Some Progress

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-07-15
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The new rounds of talks between Ramallah and Gaza mediated by the Egyptian security delegation indicate that some progress has been made along the path to Palestinian [Hamas/Fatah] reconciliation.
According to reports, understandings are being fleshed out regrading several main issues, such as enabling PA ministers to operate in Gaza, calling for a shared leadership framework to heal relations, a return to the 2017 [Fatah-Hamas] Cairo agreement, agreeing to hold presidential and legislative elections, and so on. These main items are being discussed in private away from the cameras, with few statements and leaks to the media, and without grand wagers and fantasies or smiles of reassurance – all good things in themselves.
From afar, Russian President Vladimir Putin has entered the fray with a phone-call to 'Abbas that official PA news agency Wafa has described as long and in-depth. They discussed the peace process and Russia's willingness to work toward reviving it, along with reconciliation within the PLO's framework with support for Egypt's role in the process. Putin said that he looks forward to meeting with 'Abbas in Moscow for further talks, and Wafa has mentioned two separate phone-calls, not just the one.
But these developments alone are not enough to herald a climate of optimism or raise the ceiling of expectations. The Egyptians have traversed the road back and forth between Gaza and Ramallah dozens of times before, and Cairo has received Palestinian delegations time and again. Moscow itself has been the scene of meetings between the different Palestinian factions based on an initiative from [Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail] Bogdanov with mediation from [Russia's advisor to former UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura] Vitaly Naumkin and sponsorship from the Kremlin. Yet all these efforts have been to no avail, and every initiative ends up reaching the same impasse.
The issue of Hamas and Israel reaching a tahdi'a [lull or calming down] is one significant factor in the discussion surrounding reconciliation and the peace process. There is talk of a window for a potential breakthrough soon, which while narrow, would apparently be sufficient to prevent an eruption fires from breaking out. It would involve more resources entering the besieged Strip, an extended fishing zone, and more electricity and fuel, and, as always, with the understanding that the Strip will neither erupt out of hunger nor satiety.
We have no confirmed information regarding the reasons for the renewed diplomatic movement after a relatively long slumber across these three axes: the tahdi'a, reconciliation, and the peace process. However, it is no coincidence for the mediation to be revived and mediators to take action after the Manama workshop's failure and the Palestinians' success in denuding it of any significance and proving themselves a force to be reckoned with in the region.
That may have been sufficient reason to spur Egypt's mediation based on the fear of Gaza erupting like a bomb in its lap and to motivate Russian to fill the vacuum left by Kushner's naivety as a mediator, the U.S. envoy's [Greenblatt] distastefulness, and the impudence of Washington's ambassador to Israel [Friedman]. Everything this U.S. mediation troika has done has only brought Washington's role as a mediator closer to its end, shooting U.S. diplomacy in the foot such that it can no longer take a step forward or even backtrack and openly declare its blatant failure.
Will the new rounds of talks succeed where several similar rounds have failed in the past?
We have no answer to this question yet, as the situation is still wrapped in mystery and the mediation efforts and movements are shrouded in ambiguity. At the very least, we hope that both sides will successfully embark along the path of building trust this time around and agree on a mechanism to regulate their differences and dole out shares of the cake, as meager as it is. No one has any illusions about the chances of ending the split, resuming reconciliation, and restoring unity.
"Our hopes are far more modest, and any successful steps that the mediation manages to take down the path to containing the dispute and regulating it would constitute a victory in our book, after the Palestinians have lost all hope of the 'enemy brethren' [Fatah and Hamas] returning to their senses and behaving rationally.