Published: 19:56, February 19, 2024 | Updated: 19:55, February 19, 2024
Palestinian PM Shtayyeh urges unity amid Israel conflict
By Jan Yumul in Hong Kong

Prime Minister of the State of Palestine Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks during a Townhall meeting at the 60th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany on Feb 18, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has called for unity and more practical work to realize the two-state solution and ending the violence in Gaza, making the plea ahead of a Feb 26 meeting in Moscow of various Palestinian factions.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Feb 18, Shtayyeh urged all Palestinian factions, which will gather for discussions at the invitation of Russia, to engage in dialogue, as he stressed Palestinian unity “under any circumstances”.

Israel has been conducting a military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the Hamas attack on Oct 7 during which about 1,200 Israeli nationals were killed and more than 200 were taken as hostages 

On Feb 16, Tass or the Russian News Agency reported that Russia has invited up to 14 organizations, including representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to an intra-Palestinian meeting in Moscow, citing Russia’s special presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

READ MORE: Hamas: Israel obstructing efforts to reach ceasefire in Gaza

Moscow's goal, Bogdanov said, was "to help various Palestinian forces agree to unite politically".

Shtayyeh was among many senior government officials and heads of state who attended the three-day security conference, from Feb 16 to 18, in the German city of Munich, and was the sole speaker at a session titled “Townhall: Peace in Pieces: Future of Israeli-Palestinian Relations” on Feb 18.  

He said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was focused on the suffering of the Palestinians both in Gaza and the West Bank, which it administers, and called for an immediate cease-fire and allowing more international aid into Gaza.

Shtayyeh said the PA and Hamas have been engaging in dialogue, long before Oct 7 when Hamas militants launched a surprise raid on Israel, but clarified they were “not speaking directly”.

Hamas and Fatah are the two most dominant parties in Palestine's political landscape.

Hamas has been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007, after defeating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party in the 2006 parliamentary elections. 

The factions sparked hope anew in the contentious path to achieving full Palestinian statehood when they met at an Egyptian-hosted meeting in New Alamein City in July last year.

On Feb 14, Abbas urged Hamas to finalize a prisoner swap deal with Israel, while warning of a looming Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip that could cause more humanitarian disasters.

“We will see if Hamas is ready to come to ground with us. We are ready to engage. If Hamas is not going to ground with us, that’s a different story. But we need Palestinian unity under any circumstances,” Shtayyeh told the forum on Feb 18.

Israel has been conducting a military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the Hamas attack on Oct 7 during which about 1,200 Israeli nationals were killed and more than 200 were taken as hostages. 

For the Palestinian side, the death toll has now risen to almost 29,000, according to the health ministry in the Gaza.

As pressure mounts from all quarters to forge a resolution to the conflict, the longstanding fault lines among Palestinian factions “are resurfacing with renewed intensity”

“We are now saying, we need a different, serious paradigm shift from talks into a resolution that the United States and Europe (do) recognize the state of Palestine on the borders of (1967), and Palestine will be admitted as an independent sovereign state as a member of the United Nations. And then we are ready to go for elections. The Palestinians need to be under one umbrella,” Shtayyeh said.

He lamented the challenges facing the Palestinians, saying there were “members in the Israeli government today” who “do not want to see us, not as a state, and not as an authority” and that it was “where the problem is”. 

“The problem today, for the first time, you don’t have a partner in Israel to sit down and talk to. When you don’t have a partner, then there is no process,” Shtayyeh said.

“Therefore, you need a third-party intervention — Europe, United Nations, United States (and) Arab countries — to come up with a solution, and (which) has to be agreed upon in order for us to come from the ceiling to the floor, and not continue trying to build walls … ,” he added.

Arhama Siddiqa, a Middle East analyst and research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in Pakistan, told China Daily that the “toll of human suffering (in Gaza) has reached unprecedented heights", with the reverberations of economic devastation echoing exponentially. 

As pressure mounts from all quarters to forge a resolution to the conflict, the longstanding fault lines among Palestinian factions “are resurfacing with renewed intensity”, she said.

READ MORE: Israel army chief: Gaza conflict to continue throughout 2024

“In the eventuality of a prompt cessation of hostilities, a profound re-evaluation of Palestinian state governance becomes imperative. It behoves all stakeholders to transcend personal agendas and unite in a concerted effort towards the advancement of their populace,” said Siddiqa.

“The time has come for collective action, transcending individual interests, and steering towards the holistic development of the Palestinian people,” she added.

Jawaid Iqbal, chairman of the Department of West Asian and North African Studies at Aligarh Muslim University in India, said the possible integration of Hamas into the Palestine Liberation Organization framework is dependent upon the character of the national unity program that the Fatah-led PA is willing to undertake. 


Contact the writer at jan@chinadailyapac.com