by Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are scheduled to meet in Cairo next week to discuss ways of ending the power struggle between their two parties and the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
The talks between the two men will focus on the establishment of a unity government that would be dominated by "independent" figures and whose task would be to prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections.
The meeting between Abbas and Mashaal comes more than six months after the two sides announced that they had reached, with the help of the Egyptians, a "reconciliation" agreement that would put an end to the continued rift between Hamas and Fatah.
But ever since the agreement was announced on May 4 in Cairo, Hamas and Fatah have failed to implement it on the ground.
The main reason why the agreement was never implemented was Hamas's strong opposition to the appointment of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of the proposed unity government.
Hamas says it will never accept Fayyad because of his responsibility for the security crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank and his close ties with Israel and the US. Many Palestinians also do not accept Fayyad because he was never part of the "revolution": he did not spend even one day in Israeli prison.
But now Abbas and Fatah seem to have changed their mind about Fayyad. In a series of secret meetings during the past few days in the Egyptian capital, Fatah officials informed their Hamas counterparts that Abbas was no longer insisting on the nomination of Fayyad.
In other words, Abbas decided to throw Fayyad under the bus for the sake of "unity" with Hamas.
There is no ignoring the significance of the timing of Abbas's decision to resume his efforts to seek unity with Hamas. Abbas's decision came shortly after he realized that the Palestinian Authority had failed to muster enough support in the international community for its application for membership in the UN.
By expressing his readiness to get rid of Fayyad in favor of a new partnership with Hamas, Abbas is seeking to retaliate against the US, Israel and some European countries that did not support his statehood bid.
Abbas's message to the leaders of these countries is: Because you foiled my plan to seek membership of a Palestinian state in the UN, I will punish you by joining forces with Hamas.
The biggest winner will be Hamas --- not Abbas. Any unity deal would only bolster Hamas's position, largely because it would give legitimacy to the Islamist movement.
Ironically, Abbas's overtures towards Hamas will ultimately undermine him and his West Bank authority. By striking deals with Hamas and inviting its representatives to sit in the proposed unity government, Abbas is acting along the lines of the saying: "If you can't beat them, join them."
Since 2006, Abbas and Fatah have been making every effort to get rid of Hamas, but with no success. Even the massive security crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank by Abbas's security forces has failed to weaken the movement.
Abbas has chosen the path of unity with Hamas not only because he wants to tease the Americans, Israelis and Europeans, but also because he wants to cover up for the failure of his campaign to internationalize the conflict through the UN with the hope of imposing a solution on Israel.
He is basically hoping that instead of being denounced and ridiculed by Palestinians for the failure of the statehood bid, he will now be praised for having "reunited" the Palestinians.
By joining forces with Hamas, however, Fatah is once again digging its grave with its own hands. Does Fatah or anyone else have guarantees that Hamas will not score another victory in the new elections that Abbas is now hoping to hold in the Palestinian territories sometime early next year?
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