Palestinian Unity Deal in a Changing Middle East

February 8, 2012 10:55 am (EST)

Palestinian Unity Deal in a Changing Middle East
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The February 6 Doha Declaration, a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, is indicative of "the changing dynamics in the region," says CFR’s Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies Robert M. Danin. Egypt, Fatah’s traditional backer, and Syria, Hamas’s traditional supporter, were both notably absent from the negotiations while Qatar emerged as a new player and brokered the deal, he says. Alongside the emergence of Qatar, Danin also emphasizes the growing role Jordan has been playing in sponsoring talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Danin cautions that the Qatari unity track and the Jordanian peace track are "going to collide at some point, if not very soon." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is exploring possibilities of returning to the negotiating table with Israel while reconciling with Hamas, an organization implacably opposed to Israel’s existence, Danin says. "It’s almost impossible to conceive of a way he can have both."

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The unity agreement stipulates that President Abbas would serve both as president and as prime minister. This has led to a strong negative reaction "from both elements within Fatah and elements within Hamas," Danin says. The concern on both sides is that President Abbas is "aggregating too much power, just as his predecessor Yasser Arafat did," he adds.

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