Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) leading faction, Fatah, has agreed to a unity pact with its main political rival, Hamas, ending a seven-year rift between the parties.
The news elicited immediate negative reactions from both Israel and the U.S., who consider Hamas a terrorist group and view the agreement as yet another blow against faltering peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (Israel essentially ended all peace negotiations upon hearing the news.)
Hamas and Fatah have long held fundamentally opposing viewpoints on several issues, most notably, that status of Israel, which Fatah has tried to work with, but Hamas has officially vowed to destroy. This, however, isn't the first time that Fatah and Hamas have tried to reconcile, in order to strengthen their own Palestinian government. Below is a brief history of their conflict, and the reasons they've remained divided.
But first, the pact:
The agreement between Fatah and Hamas came after a day of marathon talks that ended at 3 a.m. on Wednesday. According to Reuters, the new unity government should be in place within five weeks, and national elections are to be held six months after that. Currently, the PLO is led largely by members of Fatah, and has no Hamas representatives — but the new unity government won't have representatives from either side. The Jerusalem Post explains:
The new government that will be formed will not include members of either Fatah or Hamas, but rather experts who will prepare the ground for presidential and parliamentary elections on January 15, 2015. Deputy Hamas political bureau chief Musa Abu Marzouk said that there remained "many roadblocks on the way to unity, but the desire for reconciliation is great enough to overcome them."
If the pact holds, it could bring together the Palestinian people and leadership, helping smooth over internal politics and form a unified front against Israel.