This was clear indication that reconciliation between the two factions is now more remote than ever.
A few days after al-Hamdallah was called upon to form a government, senior Fateh official Amin Maqbul announced that he was to head a delegation to Gaza to try and persuade Hamas to hold new legislative and presidential elections in order to renew the expired mandates of the Palestinian parliament and presidency. At about the same time, Fateh central committee member Jamal Muhaisin called for elections with or without the participation of Hamas. Palestine, he said, should not be allowed to be held hostage by Hamas.
A subsequent statement from senior Fateh official Azzam al-Ahmad made the situation even more complicated. Al-Ahmad said that since Hamas had for all practical purposes reneged on the reconciliation agreements it signed with Fateh, Fateh should consider those agreements null and void. Al-Ahmad hinted implicitly that he was against holding immediate elections, and that Fateh had not yet decided to hold elections that exclude Gaza.
The Fateh official added that there were other alternatives under consideration. According to reliable sources, these alternatives range from redeploying the PA’s Presidential Guard to the Rafah crossing (between Gaza and Egypt) with or without Hamas’s approval, implementing the  agreement on border crossings (which Hamas rejects), declaring Gaza a rogue province and seeking to overthrow the Hamas regime, and finally, sidestepping the issue of elections altogether (since holding elections would deepen the split and make it permanent) and asking the PLO Central Council to extend the mandates of the PA and its president instead.
Are these seemingly contradictory statements from senior Fateh officials all parts of a plan, or do they reflect the state of confusion Fateh finds itself in? Are they signs of disagreements within the movement over the resumed peace talks with Israel, especially as these talks are being held with no terms of reference, no guarantees, no fixed timetable, and no binding implementation mechanisms against the backdrop of fevered Israel settlement activity designed to gobble up the very land the two sides are supposed to be negotiating about.
There is an essential difference and a clear contradiction between calling for elections with Hamas’s approval – if such a call were serious, and not merely designed to blame Hamas for the failure of the reconciliation process – and announcing that all agreements signed with Hamas are null and void, and holding elections without the participation of Hamas, declaring Gaza a rogue province, and redeploying the Presidential Guard at the Rafah crossing.
It would be far better to ask the PLO to settle the problem of the PA and President’s expired mandates (although, ideally, the PLO itself needs to be reformed) than to choose the other option that would only aggravate the already deep division and threaten to spread from Gaza to other Palestinian territories.
Palestinian institutions have a legitimacy problem. This is the result of their failure to fulfil the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and their failed strategies (especially that of direct peace talks). These failures have undermined the entire Palestinian national project, especially after the principle of ‘land swaps’ was adopted and resistance ruled out, and after the PA signed up to the plan of Palestinian statehood in just part of the West Bank without Jerusalem and without a solution for the refugee problem.
Reviving the Palestinian cause and redeeming the Palestinian national project must be the overriding priorities. Otherwise, the PA will always lack legitimacy, even if elections were to be held. Such elections will always lack credibility, since they would be held under occupation, without consensus, and without a strategy capable of ending the occupation and upholding Palestinian national rights.
With this in mind, national consensus can be achieved on the basis of redeeming the national project built on common denominators. This requires genuine political partnership to be achieved through regular elections at all levels. But these elections should also be part of the Palestinians’ struggle against occupation – and not designed as mere cover for the futile ‘peace process.’
Peace talks in their current form can only lead to the loss of more time, land, and rights. Israel is exploiting these talks to impose irreversible new facts that could only be confronted by fruitful resistance within a framework of a new comprehensive strategy that utilizes all forms of struggle and draws lessons from experience.
If Hamas and Fateh really have the necessary political will, the split could be ended. But both factions seek instead to capitalize at the other’s expense, ignoring the fact that they both live under (direct or indirect) Israeli occupation. If the will exists, reconciliation could be achieved despite recent developments in Egypt, but this requires both parties to desist from siding with either of the warring Egyptian parties. The Palestinian cause needs – and is capable of garnering - the support of all parties.
Hamas committed a grave error by acting – after Mursi’s ouster – as a mere appendage of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It ignored the fact that it is part of the Palestinian national movement fighting against Israeli occupation. For national unity to be restored, Hamas must distinguish itself from the Brotherhood and project itself as a Palestinian movement. This will not be easy, but without such a step, Hamas will never be a major player in Palestinian politics – especially as the new Egyptian regime is extremely hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is expected to be hostile to Brotherhood supporters in the border area between Sinai and Gaza.
Hamas must abandon any hope that Mursi will be reinstated in the future. Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt is over and done with. Hamas must therefore ‘Palestinize’ itself if it is really interested in Palestinian national unity. For its part, Fateh must abandon its undue reliance on the U.S. and the American-sponsored peace talks that, with no strong cards, no national unity, and no clear prospects of success, could only lead to catastrophe.
Fateh must also abandon the notion of the possibility that the Egypt experience could somehow be replicated in Gaza. Hamas after all won the last election years before the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt and could well survive the Brotherhood’s downfall. Hamas was part of the Palestinian resistance and can resort to arms again anytime it pleases. After all, it is the strongest faction in Gaza by far, and, with its ally Islamic Jihad, controls the security apparatus in Gaza. This is different from the situation in Egypt, where the army, the police, and the intelligence service were all anti-Muslim Brotherhood – despite the fact that Hamas lost much Arab, Muslim, and world support since it seized control of Gaza.