On Thursday in Cairo, officials from both Hamas and Fatah have signed the long-anticipated unity deal to reform the Palestinian Authority, meaning the PA will retake control over the Gaza Strip, and the Gaza and West Bank security forces will merge.
The deal is intended to allow for new elections across Palestine for the first time since 2006. In that election, Hamas won a majority of seats. Fatah refused to join the government, and the two sides were at odds until 2007, when they split outright.
There have been talks of unity deals in the past, but none had progressed nearly this far. Putting the Palestinian Authority under both de jure and de facto control of the Gaza Strip is likely to compel major changes in Israel’s crippling blockade.
The unity of the Palestinians is also likely to add new impetus to the peace process, as Israeli officials have often complained there was no point in reaching a deal with Fatah while the Palestinians were divided. Many of the same officials argue they won’t deal with Hamas anyhow, but refusing to do so is going to be tougher with them in the PA.