Having scored a resounding triumph at the United Nations General Assembly, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is planning to visit the Gaza Strip in order to heal the schism between Abbas’ Fatah, which rules the West Bank, and the more militant Hamas, which governs Gaza.
Abbas, who just watched the U.N. grant Palestine the status of observer nonmember state, has not visited Gaza since Hamas gained control there in 2007.
During the recent eight-day war between Israel and Hamas, Abbas was criticized by some Hamas officials for not taking a more decisive stand against Israel.
Overall, Hamas and Fatah have many other disagreements -- among other things, while Fatah is willing to negotiate with Israel, Hamas refuses any direct dealings with the Jewish State. (Israel, the U.S. and European Union have classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.)
The Jerusalem Post reported that senior PLO official Zakariya al-Agha said Abbas may seek to form a unity government between Fatah and Hamas.
But it is unclear if Abbas will even be welcome in Gaza.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar recently warned that he asked the prosecutor-general’s office in the Gaza Strip to arrest Abbas for “libel and slander” if he tried to enter the area.
Nonetheless, Palestinians in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, hailed the U.N.’s decision to upgrade Palestine’s status.
Hamas representative Nasser Eddin Shaer, who attended a rally in Ramallah in the West Bank, called for unity among Palestinian factions.
“We are a people who are entitled to live,” he said. “The U.N. bid is an important step. It is not a declaration of war against anyone.”
Said Nakhleh, a member of Islamic Jihad, also called for unity and suggested that his group, Hamas, and the Fatah-linked PLO should combine, such that Islamists could join.
Most importantly, Hamas leader Khalid Mesha’al, who supported Abbas’ bid to upgrade Palestine status at the U.N., also called for a reconciliation between his group and Fatah.
“I told Abu Mazen [Abbas] we want this move to be part of a national Palestinian strategy” [which includes] “the [armed] resistance, which excelled in Gaza and gave an example of the ability of the Palestinian people to resist and steadfastly confront the occupier,” Mesha’al said, according to Reuters.
“I am optimistic there is a new mood that allows us to achieve reconciliation.”
Mesha’al lives in Doha, Qatar, after fleeing Syria.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.