New context for renewed Gaza Peace efforts complicates Hamas power

/PNN/

Last year’s reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas failed just ten weeks after the deals were signed. Both groups blamed the other for missing deadlines, unfulfilled agreements and eventually the breakdown of the entire deal that would have lifted portions of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

Now, with Egypt’s renewed efforts to reconcile the Hamas government of Gaza and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, the context of such an agreement has changed almost entirely.

Gaza’s ‘March of Return’ demonstrations had a devastating effect on the Gaza population. Israel has doubled down on its blockade with the partial closure of the Karam Abu Salem commercial crossing. US Aid to UNRWA was cut by $300 million. And Hamas has been dealt a large portion of the blame from the International community.

155 Palestinians have been killed by Israel for their participation in the protests and more than 15,000 have been injured. These looming statistics have established an urgent call for change that Egypt seemed to answer first.

Tensions finally quelled after weeks of escalating discussions in the Knesset of a broad military campaign that would have sharply increased Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. And with that calm, Egypt’s President al-Sisi has stepped in, backing a deal among Israel, Fatah, Hamas and Egypt.

The deal is being brokered by Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov. As the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, his work started through back-channel communications with leaders.

Now, the agreement is starting with negotiations between Israel and Hamas. The stages of the proposed agreement would be carried out over five years, starting with an end to the incendiary balloons and kites in exchange for permanent opening of commercial crossings in Egypt and Israel.

After five years, various Arab states would fund a seaport, airport and an independent energy production facility in the Sinai Peninsula for Gaza’s use if Hamas continues a ceasefire.

Proposed agreements with the Palestinian Authority have not been released yet, but the issue was talked about in media interviews with Hamas leaders.

This deal would be different in its involvement of the international community. The World Bank has pledged a $55 million increase in aid to humanitarian efforts in Gaza if an agreement is reached during this round of negotiations.

Hamas leaders have convened in order to discuss and vote on the agreement. If they refuse, conditions would likely continue to worsen for the population in the Gaza Strip. And with an increase in competing militant groups, this would not guarantee their continued power over the region.

However, the tendency of peace deals over the last decade show that their power over the Gaza Strip would still be threatened by international pressure to reconcile governance with the Palestinian Authority.