In a region that faces many challenges, Egypt has remained an essential player in regional stability, with its leadership determined to help bring about a just and comprehensive peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people — putting an end to a conflict that has raged for over half a century. Over the last decade, the disunity among the Palestinians has been a stumbling block for advancing peace. Egypt has become increasingly involved in efforts to mend the rift and, following talks in Cairo this past week, an accord between Fatah and Hamas has become a reality.
Bridging the divides
It has been now 10 years since Israel withdrew its control of the Gaza Strip enclave, but inside the territory Palestinian discord and internal conflict has dramatically hindered the economic development of the more than 1.5 million Palestinians there, and strained relationships with the Palestinians living on the West Bank. The lack of unity between the two factions of Hamas and Fatah has been detrimental in many ways for the Palestinian people and for the whole region. The internal strife has proven to be an obstacle to a united approach in any negotiations with Israel regarding an end to the conflict, or the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
The more immediate crisis, however, is not political. It is humanitarian. The situation in Gaza has deteriorated greatly with the lack of electricity and basic resources.
The Road to Palestinian Unity
Throughout this period, Egypt has stood firm on the need to reignite Palestinian unity across the territories and factions. On as many as seven other occasions over the past decade Egypt has brought the parties together to reach an agreement. Key to efforts to overcome the divisions, was the 2011 Social Reconciliation Accord signed between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, and authored by Egypt in 2009. This serves to build a framework for mending the internal rifts, and Egypt has remained strong on the need to see it implemented.
Now, in the last week, following extensive talks in Cairo, Egypt is delighted to welcome the decision of Hamas to move towards a unified administration with Fatah, and begin a path to elections to allow the Palestinian people a voice on their future.
The significance of this move was felt around the world, and led by NickolayMladenov, UN Middle East envoy, who said, “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 also noted the urgency of addressing what he called the “grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis.”
Indeed, the UN gathering, set to occur in the coming days in New York with the attendance of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, this will be welcome news for those concerned with the Palestinian people. The timing of the UN General Assembly could well give the renewed dialogue in the region extra momentum, and lead to results on the ground in the very near future.