PA’s Abbas, Hamas’s Haniyeh meet for first time in six years

Rival leaders met for the first time since 2016 in Algeria.

By World Israel News Staff

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday met with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Algeria, the first such meeting between the two in six years.

The two were visiting Algeria to celebrate the North African nation’s 60th Independence Day. Their meeting was arranged at the behest of Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune, Israeli media reported.

Haaretz cited Palestinian Authority sources as saying that the aim of the meeting was to advance a unity government including both Abbas’ Fatah party and its rival Hamas. The factions hope that the effort will pave the way for general elections in the Palestinian Authority, the report said.

Because of Fatah-Hamas disagreements, Palestinians have not held a national election since 2005. Abbas is currently in the 17th year of a four-year term as president.

Multiple attempts at reconciling the factions have been occurred over years, mostly with Egypt serving as mediator, but all have proved fruitless.

Abbas called legislative elections for May 2021 but cancelled at the last minute, with the excuse that Israel was not allowing Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem to vote. Polls at the time, and since then, have shown that Hamas would likely beat Fatah if elections were held.

Palestinians were outraged that the aging leader scrapped the elections, and several high profile activists began a campaign demanding the chance to vote. Protests against the government in Ramallah ensued in the month following the cancellation, culminating with the death of anti-Abbas activist Nizar Banat who was beaten to death while in PA custody.

A poll conducted last month of Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip showed that while public support for Hamas has edged ahead of Fatah, it has declined in general for both groups.

It found that 45% of respondents believed Hamas should lead the Palestinians, while only 19% said Fatah. 80% of Palestinians called on Abbas to resign.

It was deemed the “worst polling ever seen for the president,” according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which carried out the survey.