I hope the issue of reconciliation with Hamas isn't one of the subjects which Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is in Cairo tomorrow, carries in his pocket. It's been proven that the interests of this reconciliation are not deposited in the Palestinian people's account but are deposited in different accounts ever since Hamas hijacked power and imposed its control on the Gaza Strip and killed and expelled whoever belongs to the Fatah movement.
During the following phase, Egypt made sincere efforts to overcome all obstacles hindering reconciliation between the two major factions in Palestine. Egypt did so despite its awareness that both parties are clearly stalling since they are benefitting from the situation the way it is. The Egyptians however resumed making these efforts because they thought the alternative would be fighting and weakening the Palestinian stance in general and this harms the Palestinians who want a real reconciliation.
Ties between Egypt and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, whether before or after the collapse of Hosni Mubarak, cannot be considered warm. They could only be considered warm earlier during the year when the Brotherhood ruled. The Egyptians were aware at all times that Hamas isn't a likeable neighbor as long as it controls Gaza. But the Egyptian strategy back then was working on containing Hamas to guarantee Palestinian reconciliation and Egyptian national security. The exception was made during Mohammad Mursi's reign which lasted for one year - since he was assigned president on June 30, 2012 and until he was ousted on July 3, 2013. Smuggling tunnels were used with a unique competence to smuggle Egyptian goods and stolen car parts to the Gaza Strip. Jihadi takfiris come to Egypt through the tunnels which are also used to smuggle weapons of all kinds into Egypt. The sacked Hamas government which controls Gaza collects money levied on goods smuggled from Egypt. It also takes money to allow digging and operating a tunnel. The government thus gains around $400 million a year.
Hamas losing sympathy
Hamas began to lose the Egyptian people's sympathy after it was revealed that it was clearly involved in the January revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Hamas lost support particularly after people learnt that it played a role in attacking a number of Egyptian prisons on January 28 and 29, 2011. The result of these attacks was releasing a number of Brotherhood leaders, in addition to releasing thousands of other dangerous prisoners and killing police officers and soldiers. It further lost support as details of its involvement during the Brotherhood rule surfaced and as people became aware that the movement is an original part of the Muslim Brotherhood group or that it's rather the latter's military wing. In brief, it became very clear how dangerous Hamas is to Egyptian national security.
The reconciliation between Abbas and Dahlan is important on the level of reuniting efforts before the next phase of the struggle with Hamas in Gaza begins.Abdel Latif el-Menawy
With all these givens, it's clear that Abu Mazen's continuous insistence to move forward with achieving a reconciliation which will not be fulfilled with a faction like Hamas is in fact a waste of time. It also raises suspicions on the reasons of insisting to make efforts over a lost case. Who's benefiting here? Recent reports said that there were several attempts to reconcile Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammad Dahlan, the Fatah official whom the former sacked. Such attempts indicate that there is awareness of the threats which the Palestinians and their case are subject to amidst Hamas control and Fatah's rift. However these attempts failed for reasons that appear extremely personal in the relation between the two men. One of the weird reasons these attempts failed is Abu Mazen's insistence that the agreement between him and Dahlan be through the "president's" son.
The reconciliation between Abbas and Dahlan is important on the level of reuniting efforts before the next phase of the struggle with Hamas in Gaza begins. It will not be strange if we expect Arab pressure towards speeding up an internal consensus between the central committee and Dahlan for regional and domestic reasons. Dahlan had announced in a statement that he's willing to head to Ramallah and to stand before a national investigation committee of all factions to investigate the accusations made against him on condition that the commission be neutral and that Abu Mazen does not interfere in its work.
Some see that Abbas feels Dahlan represents a threat to him so they don't think there will be a reconciliation soon since Abu Mazen fears that he himself may be a price for this reconciliation. But will such fears be reason behind harming the national interest of the Palestinians? Will Egypt and neighboring countries stand idle without pushing to replace the concept of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas with the concept of reconciliation within Fatah?
This article was first published in al-Jarida on Nov. 9, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy)