Is the Palestinian honeymoon coming to an end?
Hamas officials on Monday accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of attempting to sabotage a reconciliation agreement after he accused the group of running a “shadow government” in Gaza, raising doubts over the durability of the nascent Palestinian unity.
Hamas was angered by Abbas’ stern comments made on Sunday upon his arrival in Cairo to give a key address at an Arab League meeting in which he threatened to end the unity agreement if the Islamist group refused to let go of control over the Gaza Strip.
In response, Hamas’ Fawzi Barhum accused the Palestinian president of trying “to destroy the reconciliation and play into the hands of the Americans and the Israelis.”
This disagreement erupted two weeks after a major 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza came to an end.
Following the reconciliation agreement in April, a new Palestinian government composed of technocrats took office on June 2, with the Hamas government officially stepping down on the same day.
While Hamas and Fatah put a united front during indirect truce talks with the Israelis in Cairo, divisions resumed shortly after the cease-fire.
Hamas had said it delayed implementing provisions under the unity agreement citing the 50-day conflict that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians as justification.
“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Abbas said on arrival in the Egyptian capital late Saturday, in remarks published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza where there is a shadow government … running the territory,” he said.
“The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” he charged.
Khalil Shahin, a Palestinian commentator based in Ramallah, placed the chances of relations deteriorating further at “50/50.”
However, “this would open a chance in order to reach an agreement with Hamas and to calm down the situation at least to put an end to growing tensions between the two movements,” Shahin told Al Arabiya news.
“But I think president Abbas is going toward dictating his own conditions on Hamas,” he said.
Under the terms of a reconciliation deal signed in April, the Palestinians agreed to form an interim consensus government of technocrats, ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.