Politics: Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas have signed a reconciliation deal — but it’s still unclear what that means

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Hamas' representative, Saleh al-Arouri, kiss after signing a reconciliation deal at a short ceremony at the Egyptian intelligence complex in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the deal a "final agreement to end the division."

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal on Thursday, the latest move towards ending a split that has splintered Palestinian leadership for a decade.

Negotiations between the two groups began Tuesday in talks lead by Egypt. This has been considered the most serious effort to date to bring the two factions following a bloody near-civil war in 2007.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the US, which has complicated efforts by the Palestinians to bring the groups together.

While details about the deal are still scarce, it appears that Fatah — the ruling party in the West Bank — will have more control over Gaza, which has been run by Hamas since the split.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the deal a "final agreement to end the division," while speaking with the AFP. The Fatah leader will reportedly visit Gaza within a month, the first time he has been there since 2007.

A unity government will reportedly take control of Gaza by December 1.

The discussions in Egypt reportedly ignored the issue of Hamas' military wing, one of the most contentious issues between the two factions.

Before talks began, Abbas said he would not accept "the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon." Hezbollah, a recognized terrorist group, is part of the Lebanese government, but maintains its own army.

Hamas has remained staunchly opposed to even discussing demilitarization.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also made demilitarization one of his criteria for entering any talks with the Palestinians.

Given Netanyahu's current stance, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation could doom negotiations, Daniel Kurtzer, a former US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt, told Business Insider before the new deal was announced.

"Netanyahu can do what he wants to do, and thus far he appears irreconcilably opposed to PLO-Hamas reconciliation," Kurtzer said in an email. "If the Palestinians do reconcile on a reasonable basis and if Netanyahu's attitude doesn't change, it will be impossible to reach negotiations now."

Mohammad Dahlan, a controversial Palestinian leader who is one of the main players in the Fatah-Hamas talks, seemed to acknowledge favoring reconciliation over possible Israeli peace talks in a recent interview with Reuters.

"The internal Palestinian situation is more sacred, is more important, and is more useful now than the so-called negotiation," Dahlan said.

Fatah and Hamas are expected to give a joint news conference later Thursday.


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