The two biggest Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed to hold the first elections in Palestine in nearly 15 years.
Polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal agreed by Fatah, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniya.
“We have agreed to first hold legislative elections, then presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority, and finally the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, on Thursday.
The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 2006 when Hamas won by an unexpected landslide.
Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a short-lived reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt in 2017 [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]Saleh al-Arouri, a top Hamas official, said the deal was reached during meetings held in Turkey.
“This time we reached a real consensus,” he told the AFP news agency from Istanbul. “Divisions have damaged our national cause and we are working to end that.”
Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah’s Central Committee, stressed the Palestinian leadership’s declared position that neither Jerusalem nor the besieged Gaza Strip should be excluded from the elections.
“Without Jerusalem, there will be no elections,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, a top member of Fatah called the continuing talks in Turkey with Hamas “positive, fruitful, and productive”.
Sources: The meeting of #Fatah and #Hamas in #Turkey "positive, fruitful and constructive" . The dialogue included reconciliation, holding elections and rejecting all projects, that plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. #Palestine #UNGA #UN75 pic.twitter.com/LSSjSmMOIZ
— Dr. Basem Naim (@basemn63) September 24, 2020
“The dialogue is an important step towards reconciliation and partnership, and unifying the Palestinian stance in the light of the consensus on rejecting all the liquidation projects against the Palestinian cause,” Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, wrote on Twitter.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said: “We welcome the positive atmosphere that has been shadowing the national dialogue that has been going on in Istanbul for two days between Fatah and Hamas that have agreed to hold general elections.”
He added that the PA was ready to provide all the requirements for the success of these elections as a gateway to “renewing democratic life, and for solidifying national unity in the face of serious and existential dangers that threaten the Palestinian cause for the first time in its history”.
A meeting of the general secretaries of the factions will soon be held to announce the details of Thursday’s agreement while also discussing the working mechanism until the elections are held.
Following the 2006 polls, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government but it soon collapsed and bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two factions the following year.
Hamas has since ruled Gaza, while Fatah has run the PA, based in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
Numerous attempts at reconciliation, including a prisoner exchange agreement in 2012 and a short-lived unity government two years later, have failed to close the rift.
The talks in Turkey come after Abbas asked Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to support Palestinian reconciliation efforts with the aim to head towards general elections.
They also come in the context of efforts to unify the Palestinian ranks in light of the US’s so-called Middle East plan and the accelerated normalisation between two Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – and Israel.
The accords break with decades of Arab consensus that ties with Israel should not be normalised until it has signed a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.