After months of long talks and extensive negotiations, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which have ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, have plans to form a united coalition, according to news agency reports. The Russian-brokered agreement could change the course of the Palestinian struggle against Israel as the number of Palestinian homes being demolished steadily increases. The move points to the increasingly significant role Russia plays in the outcome of fragile issues in the region.
After three days of negotiations in Moscow, both parties declared they had reached an agreement and that a new National Council would be formed that would include Palestinians who had been exiled. The council is expected to be on the voting ticket in June elections. Since 2006, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's al-Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in fighting after Hamas won the elections in Gaza; thus increasing the unlikelihood of a unified Palestine. The two sides have a bloody history, having imprisoned dozens for alleged links to rival parties. Namely, in 2007, deadly clashes erupted among party sympathizers after Hamas won the elections in Gaza, as seen in the deadly clashes between party sympathizers in 2007 following the Hamas victory in the Gaza elections. of 2007 which brought an end to al-Fatah's rule.
Hamas is considered a terror organization by the U.S. and Israel, while al-Fatah is the most favored Palestinian faction. After talks regarding a unified government attempt in 2014 failed in less than a year, doubts emerged over the future of the national coalition. However, senior al-Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed reportedly said: "Today the conditions for [such an initiative] are better than ever."
There are some remarkable points which explain why it happened now and is better than ever. First, Russia is the broker for the talks. Contrary to the U.S., Russia does not consider Hamas a red line and is open to contact with the group. For instance, Al-Jazeera's Moscow correspondent Natasha Ghoneim said, "Historically, peace talks have been dominated by the U.S. They are looking for a different approach and Russia certainly offered it." Moreover, for the first time, thanks to the good relations between Moscow and Tehran, the Iranian-backed Islamic jihadists were also involved in the negotiations.
Secondly, it is noteworthy that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly said he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which is under occupation according to the U.N. In efforts to abate internal disputes, the two parties had to reach an agreement to overcome the pressure brought by the Trump administration.
Thirdly, Gaza-born al-Fatah member Mohammad Dahlan was also involved in the talks and it is a well-known fact that he is effective on both sides. Dahlan is a popular figure across the region as he has joined peace talks for Syria in Cairo last March, participating in a meeting organized by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 2015 and appearing on several TV channels, presenting himself as a man who could save the region. His animosity against Turkey was made clear with his relentless attacks on Turkey and criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan which he voices any chance he gets. It is clear that Dahlan is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, both of which are disappointed by Turkey's active role in the region. Dahlan received Serbian citizenship in 2013 after promising Belgrade to bring millions of dollars' worth of investments. According to the Balkan Insight last July, "In February 2015, Ivica Dacic, then Serbia's foreign minister, confirmed that Serbia had granted Dahlan citizenship in 2013. Dahlan reportedly promised Serbia millions of dollars in investments from the UAE, where he had been living since 2011."
The unification may help Palestine as Hamas, one of the main parties of Palestine, has always been excluded from peace talks despite Israel's explicit aggression towards Gaza. Yet, it is still difficult to consider a unified government in Palestine or for how long the National Council will last. However, it is a fact that Russia has become the major player in negotiations.
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