Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017(Photo: Reuters)
In a statement to reporters Wednesday, Saad El-Gammal, the head of the Egyptian parliament's Arab Affairs Committee, said Egypt's long efforts to resolve hostility between Palestine's two main political factions – Fatah and Hamas – is still facing hard obstacles.
"Egypt has not abandoned efforts to achieve Palestinian national reconciliation, but external and internal obstacles still stand in the way," said El-Gammal.
In mid-October 2017, the secular Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo to advance reconciliation and restore the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority's (PA) control in the Gaza Strip. However, the two factions have failed to implement the deal, arguing over interpretation of its details.
El-Gammal said: "Each faction is holding to its own interpretation and positions and this makes the reconciliation deal very difficult to reach." "But this has not led Egypt's constructive efforts brokered by the intelligence and foreign ministry to collapse," he added. El-Gammal said that "both are still doing their best to bring the positions of the two factions on a number of serious political issues much closer."
"At the same time Egyptian officials are trying to show Fatah and Hamas the dangers of Palestinian divisions on the Middle East peace process and the future of Palestine itself," said El-Gammal, adding: "In this respect, I want to emphasise that some foreign forces are trying their best to keep Palestinian political divisions in place, and blow apart any reconciliation efforts. Of course, Israel likes to keep divisions, because this kills any hope for peace in the Middle East and serves its own interest in occupying Palestinian lands forever."
Many Egyptian MPs believe that Qatar, Turkey and Iran are also using financial assistance as leverage over Hamas not to accept reconciliation with Fatah.
Sources in Cairo's media circles say the most contentious issue between the two factions is the future of the weapons of Hamas in Gaza.
Hamas said it will not accept any deal that might push it to disarm or give up its weapons. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would only agree to a scenario in which PA security forces control all of Gaza's weapons and armed militias.
El-Gammal said Egyptian officials have repeatedly told the Palestinians that "permanent divisions will only lead the world lose sympathy with the Palestinian cause" and that "Israel likes this scenario very much."
El-Gammal revealed that Egyptian officials also urged the Palestinians to unite, particularly after most of the Arab world – including Egypt and Saudi Arabia – has rejected the US-proposed "Deal of the Century" that aims to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.
"Egyptian officials told the Palestinians that you have to invest in these strong Arab positions and move quickly to reach reconciliation," said El-Gammal, adding: "We have high hopes that the two rival factions will be aware of this, relinquish divisions, listen to the voice of reason and national conscience, put supreme Palestinian and Arab interests above narrow partisan, personal and ideological interests, and move to reconciliation and not let down the Palestinian people."