With the war over and the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip holding, Palestinian unity talks seem to be getting a big shot in the arm. Negotiations with Hamas, long stalled because of Israeli objections, seem more practical for Fatah, while Hamas is looking at major confidence-building measures.
The biggest of these came today, with Hamas announcing a blanket pardon for all Fatah detainees captured as political prisoners since the two sides violently split in 2006. The Gaza Interior Ministry says 22 detainees will be released because of the move.
The two sides split after Hamas won a landslide victory in the 2006 elections, and at the behest of Israel and the Bush Administration Fatah chose to ignore the elections and keep its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in power. Eventually the split turned violent and left Hamas in control of Gaza with Fatah in the West Bank.
Israeli officials have long cited the split as a deal-breaker for negotiating a permanent peace deal and Palestinian statehood, but at the same time condemned the idea of Palestinian unity and insisting they could never negotiate if Hamas was part of the equation.
With the negotiated ceasefire in place, Israel is going to struggle to insist Hamas can’t be negotiated with, and the faction’s control of the strip, having survived another Israeli war, is even less in question than ever. Beyond that Fatah’s poor showing in its latest elections, which Hamas wasn’t even allowed to take part in, has put them in a precarious position and forced them to turn to their old rivals to try to reestablish a credible role in Palestinian leadership.
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