Facing 'normalisation' threat, Palestinians respond with unity

Facing normalisation threat, Palestinians respond with unity
Date: 15.9.2020 11:00

Fatah, Hamas and other factions come together after the 'stab in the back' by Arab states over Israel deals.

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Prompted by Arab states normalising relations with Israel, fractured Palestinian political factions are working diligently in multilateral talks to restore unity and mend the division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in negotiations far more promising than previous efforts. 
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain's foreign ministers will sign on Tuesday an agreement with Israel at the White House establishing full ties in violation of the Arab Peace Initiative. The move is a threat to long-standing Arab demands that Israel ends its decades-long occupation and agree on a two-state solution with the Palestinians.  
On Saturday, Palestinian groups led by Hamas and Fatah agreed on a "unified field leadership" comprising all factions that will lead "comprehensive popular resistance" against the Israeli occupation, a statement said. 
It called for Tuesday - when the signing ceremony takes place in Washington, DC - to be a day of "popular rejection". Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are planning "day of rage" demonstrations, and other protests are expected outside the embassies of Israel, the United States, UAE, and Bahrain worldwide.
The formation of the joint leadership group and progress in the intra-Palestinian unity talks came after a long-awaited September 3 meeting among Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas's Ismail Haniya, Islamic Jihad's chief Ziyad al-Nakhala, and the leaders of various Palestinian entities. Gatherings were held in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and Beirut, Lebanon. 
Hamas and other Palestinian parties have for years demanded that such a meeting take place, but Abbas always rejected the move, calling on Hamas to honour previous unity pacts first. 
But with the Palestinian cause lately facing so many challenges - the most important being the normalisation between Arab countries and Israel - Abbas agreed to hold discussions.
'Major progress'
Husam Badran, a member of Hamas' political bureau, told Al Jazeera several factors are pushing the Palestinians together, including US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century", Israel's annexation plans of Palestinian areas, and Arab states normalising relations with "the occupation and what it represented as a treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinians". 
Badran called the leadership meeting a "major step of progress" that resulted in clear decisions on several pressing issues.  
"The rush of a number of Arab countries to normalise their relations with the occupation state has pushed the file of forming a unified field leadership for popular resistance to the top of the Palestinian actions' agenda," Badran said. 
He added the normalisation moves "necessitate that the Palestinians cooperate and strengthen their internal front, and transcend all their differences to save the Palestinian cause". 
"The Palestinian leaders are transforming their rejection of all the plans that aim to liquidate the Palestinian cause into realistic steps on the ground," said Badran.
Three committees were formed at the meeting: the first focused on forming a unified field leadership to activate popular struggle against the Israeli occupation, the second is responsible for reaching an agreed-upon vision to end the division between Gaza and the West Bank, and a third tasked with reviving the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
The committees were given a five-week time limit to submit recommendations to the Palestinian president. Abbas pledged he will agree to the recommendations whatever they may be.


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