Palestinians face crunch dialogue in Cairo ahead of United Nations bid

By Nasser Abu Bakr ,AFP

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories — The Palestinians launch an intensive diplomatic campaign on three fronts this week: tackling internal divisions, resuming truce talks with Israel and making a fresh appeal to the United Nations.

Most of the diplomatic activity will take place in Cairo where representatives of the Hamas and Fatah factions are to gather on Tuesday to address issues blocking the implementation of a reconciliation deal, which was inked in April but is now threatening to collapse.

Later that day, a cross-party Palestinian delegation, including Fatah and Hamas, is expected to present a united front in talks with Israel aimed at cementing a ceasefire that took effect on Aug. 26, ending 50 days of fighting in Gaza. But in order to negotiate with Israel, internal Palestinian divisions must be put aside and the two sides must agree upon a “unified strategy,” officials say.

The unity deal was to have ended years of bitter rivalry between the Fatah faction of president Mahmud Abbas that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and the Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for the past seven years. Following the deal, the rivals set up a government of independents, the first united administration in seven years, which took office in early June. But sharp divisions quickly emerged over the control of Gaza, where the Hamas government formally stepped down on June 2 but has remained the de facto power.

Abbas has accused Hamas of operating a “shadow government” and threatened to end the unity deal unless the Islamists allow the new government to function properly there.

In Cairo, the factions will focus on governance in Gaza and allowing the consensus government to do its job, as well as key questions of security in the enclave following the seven-week war with Israel.

They will also discuss the question of wages for over 40,000 Hamas government employees whose jobs have been up in the air since June. And they will have to agree on “a unified Palestinian strategy” vis-a-vis truce talks with Israel, senior Fatah official Sakher Bseiso told AFP at the weekend.

In parallel, the Palestinians will be expected to conduct indirect truce talks with Israel. These also are up against the clock, with the Jewish New Year beginning at sundown Wednesday.