The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, has pledged to dissolve its administrative committee and expressed readiness to hold general elections in a bid for reconciliation with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
A statement from Hamas stated that the decision came in response to recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt to reconcile the rival factions, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been calling on Hamas to end the administrative committee, relinquish control of the small territory to the PA, and hold presidential and legislative elections.
Contact has been recently made between Egyptian officials and Abbas to push for a meeting between the two groups in the near future.
On Saturday 16 September, Head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, headed a delegation of senior leaders to Cairo where they met with Egyptian intelligence officials, including head of Egyptian intelligence General Khaled Fawzy.
Haniyeh told Fawzy and other officials in Cairo that they would dissolve the administrative committee to make way for a unity government with Fatah if the PA did away with punitive measures it imposed against the Gaza Strip.
After talks with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Hamas delegates were scheduled to leave Cairo on Wednesday. However, the Egyptian intelligence chief asked them to extend their visit until Friday in the hope of holding a meeting with Fatah officials.
Hamas and the Fatah-led PA have been embroiled in a more than a decade-long conflict, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections and a bloody conflict between the two groups ensued.
Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding off on long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.
Hamas signed the reconciliation agreement with the PLO in April 2014, which was to pave the way for a general election by the end of 2014. However, a devastating 50-day Israeli attack on Gaza that year, as well as a dispute over payment of the salaries of tens of thousands of Hamas security forces, blocked progress on the deal towards reconciliation.
The Palestinian political crisis has since only continued to worsen, and Hamas said it formed the committee after the consensus government failed to take responsibility for Gaza’s administration. The PA alleges that Hamas is attempting to form a “shadow government” to run Gaza independent of the West Bank.
Last month, Abbas threatened to undertake further repressive measures against the impoverished territory should Hamas not unconditionally abide by the PA’s demands to end the administrative committee, relinquish control of the enclave to the PA, and hold presidential and legislative elections.
Following Hamas’ acceptance of these key conditions on Sunday, senior Fatah official Mahmoud Aloul told Reuters news agency that he welcomed cautiously Hamas’s position. “If this is Hamas statement, then this is a positive sign,” he reportedly said. “We in Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation.”
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov welcomed on Sunday a decision by Hamas to disband the administrative committee in the blockaded Gaza Strip so as to boost the national reconciliation.
“I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the administrative committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Mladenov said in a statement.