The Council held a workshop under the title of (Palestinian Reconciliation: Challenges and Opportunities for Success) on 9 March 2016, instant. Attending was a group of experts and specialists in this field. The issues identified for examination at the workshop revolved round three main themes: First, the implications of the Palestinian split, secondly, the reconciliation course and a reading into its most important documents, and third the Egyptian and Arab role in reconciliation and the nature of the actions required.
The workshop was organized by the ECFA Israeli and Palestinian Studies Unit (Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim El Dewary- Dr. Jamal Yousef) and was attended by representatives of the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Mohammed Sobeih, Arab League Assistant Secretary-General and former Secretary of the Palestinian National Council, as well as professors of law, political science and economics from the Egyptian and Palestinian sides.
At the beginning of the workshop, Ambassador Dr. MounirZahran, ECFA Chair , and Ambassador Dr. Ezzat Saad, ECFA Executive Director, made two presentations underlining the importance of the Palestinian issue to Egypt as a matter of national security, as well as the importance of reconciliation for the future of the Palestinian people for the promotion of the peace process which cannot be attained as long as division remains.
The topics which the experts addressed at the workshop mainly dealt with the following:
A – The history of the Hamas movement shows that it had never been close to the Palestinian national project, but has constantly adopted a different program that suits its objectives and is in line with its ideology.
B – The current economic situation in the Gaza Strip is catastrophic in every respect poverty – unemployment – water pollution – gas and electricity crunch – the lack of or shortage of basic goods – tunnels policy – non-implementation of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip conferences’ decisions, which all render reconciliation imperative to save the sector from slipping faster and further into deterioration.
C – The need for setting the Palestinian home in order, including the reconciliation file, considering that Egypt stands ready to provide every possible assistance in this respect as long as it serves national security.
Hamas is moving tactically, watching who would succeed President Abu Mazen if he leaves power for any reason. Its aims in the long term are to have control over the future of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. It is necessary to scrutinize the proceeding points of Hamas ideology in order to understand the dimensions and implications of its policy and movements.
Hamas’s mentality always prompts it to fan difference and to contradict the very points from which the Palestinian Authority proceeds, especially as the latter has recently gained popularity, both regionally and internationally, and its political project is gaining currency abroad and acceptance on a larger scale.
In light of the issues, discussions and presentations during the workshop, the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs sees the following:
A – Achieving Palestinian reconciliation is necessary to promote the peace process, if we want to activate it again. It is also vital for the achievement of stability on the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, and consequently in the Sinai. This, in turn, requires that we do not leave the reconciliation process completely in the hands of other regional parties in conflict with Egypt’s interests. Egypt must hold again the keys to reconciliation in a timely manner.
B – The importance of recalculations in our relationship with Hamas to press it into abstaining from any infringement on Egyptian national security, provided that Egypt would take hard hitting action against it in this case but must not completely cut off communication with it. The rate and level of communication with Hamas must be exclusively based on our calculations and our interests, and we must not lose sight, at any time, that Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, with all its consequent obligations and abidance by its instructions however hard it may try to claim the contrary.
C – The importance of the continuation of Egyptian coordination with the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement on an ongoing basis in order to keep up common positions and maintain maximum bilateral understanding, both on the issue of reconciliation or any other topic of mutual interest.
D – The importance of holding other workshops on issues related to the Palestinian cause at the domestic and foreign levels on the basis of considering it an Egyptian national security issue that cannot be relinquished, for whatever reasons.