The two main Islamist groups based in Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are holding talks about merging into a single movement. The move could paralyze reconciliation talks with the ruling West Bank-centered Fatah party, by entrenching Hamas in a rejectionist policy toward Israel, as well as combine the arsenals of both terrorist organizations.
"An in-depth dialogue has actually begun, both internally and externally, with the aim of uniting," Islamic Jihad spokesman Daud Shihab told the AFP. Similar pronouncements emerged in Arabic from Hamas' Gaza-based head, Ismail Haniyeh, who claimed the talks were intended to open a "deep dialogue" that would result in "a full integrative unity between the two [parties]."
The talks contradict claims by out-going leader Khaled Meshaal, that Hamas is interested in making a strategic turn away from violence and toward pragmatism. Islamic Jihad's platform holds that jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine, and that this is part of a pan-Islamic revival that will engulf the world. The group has also repeatedly pounded Israel with rockets and broken ceasefires with the Jewish state.
Negotiations for a union of the groups have broken down before. Islamic Jihad sought cooperation or unity with Hamas during the 1987-1993 intifada, but the groups were unable to overcome ideological issues.