Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed said that Palestinian
unity "is the best weapon we have against the occupation," following an
announcement that Fatah and Hamas reached a reconciliation deal on
Criticizing Israeli displeasure with the deal, Ahmed
said, "even before the details of the reconciliation deal were
officially [announced], Israel attacked the agreement."
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Earlier, following a series of secret meetings in Cairo and Damascus over the past few weeks, Hamas and Fatah announced that they struck a deal to
form a “national unity” government, and hold elections within a year.
The agreement, which has been hailed by both sides as “historic,” was reached under the auspices of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry and General Intelligence Force.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby said the agreement was aimed at paving the way for the Palestinians to seek UN recognition in September of an independent state on the 1967 lines.
“Palestinian divisions can’t continue while efforts are being made to ensure recognition of a Palestinian state,” Elaraby said, adding that he planned to visit Ramallah soon for talks with Palestinian Authority officials on this and other matters.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the PA needed to choose
between a peace deal with Israel and one with Hamas.
“Peace with both is impossible, because Hamas aims to destroy the State of Israel and says that openly,” Netanyahu said, in a filmed statement uploaded onto YouTube. “It fires missiles at our cities and at our children.”
Netanyahu said the whole idea of reconciliation showed the PA’s weakness and raised questions of “whether Hamas will gain control over Judea and Samaria, the way it did over the Gaza Strip.
“I hope that the Palestinian Authority will make the right choice – that it will choose peace with Israel. The choice is in its hands.”
Representatives of the rival parties signed initial letters of an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement, said Izat Risheq, a member of the Hamas delegation that held talks in Cairo with Fatah officials.
He said Egypt would invite leaders of all Palestinian factions to attend the ceremony for the signing of the formal reconciliation agreement between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.
The Hamas delegation to the reconciliation talks was headed by Mashaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, while the Fatah team was headed by Azzam al-Ahmed.
Mahmoud Zahar, a member of the Hamas delegation to the Cairo discussions, said the accord called for the formation of an interim unity government that would consist of “professional” figures, and reviving the work of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has been paralyzed because of the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
The two parties have also agreed to release Hamas and Fatah prisoners held in each others' jails and to the establishment of a joint security committee, Zahar said.
Ahmed said the two sides had reached agreement on all points of contention, including the make-up of the unity government, fixing a date for presidential and parliamentary elections, and restructuring the PLO.
He said that next week, the Egyptians would summon representatives of all Palestinian factions to Cairo to hear their responses to the Hamas-Fatah deal.
Ahmed said the Egyptian authorities had been holding secret contacts with Hamas and Fatah in the past few weeks in a bid to end the dispute between them.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, dismissed Netanyahu’s warning to the PA that it must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.
Abu Rudaineh said Netanyahu must choose between a just and comprehensive peace with a unified Palestinian people, and settlements.
“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas is an internal issue, and Israel has nothing to do with it and it’s not a party to it,” the spokesman said. “The agreement enhances the unity of the Palestinian people and their just struggle to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
This was not the first time that the Egyptians have announced an agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
In late 2009, the two parties were close to signing a deal in Cairo, but the ceremony was canceled at the last minute after Hamas backtracked in protest against Abbas’s failure to support a motion at the UN Human Rights Council that would have endorsed the Goldstone Report on the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead offense in the Gaza Strip.
In February 2007, Hamas and Fatah signed their first unity government agreement in Mecca. The agreement collapsed four months later when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip.
While Wednesday’s announcement caught most people by surprise, Netanyahu has been warning against a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation for weeks. In mid-March he asked, in a CNN interview, how the PA could be “for peace with Israel and peace with Hamas that calls for our destruction.”
Senior diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, meanwhile, downplayed the announcement, saying there have been similar ones in the past that went nowhere because agreement could not be reached on cardinal questions such as whether Hamas would allow the PA a foothold back in Gaza, and whether Fatah would let Hamas return to the West Bank.
In light of experience with such announcements, one source said, it was important to “wait and see what will happen this time.”
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said the deal between Fatah and Hamas revealed the true face of the Palestinian leaders who have refused to negotiate with Israel over the past two years.
“Now it is clear to everyone that they are not seeking peace,” Shalom said. “We must ask the world whether there is a way to make peace with people who openly declare that their goal is to destroy the State of Israel. A Palestinian state would be a Hamas- Iranian outpost in the Middle East.”
National Union MK Arye Eldad said the unity agreement should enable the prime minister to free Israel from international pressure that he said had made Netanyahu panic in recent months.
Eldad called on Netanyahu to announce that as long as the PA was cooperating with Hamas there would be no negotiations or concessions.
The Meretz faction released a statement expressing cautious optimism
regarding the deal. The statement said Meretz hoped the deal will bring
about moderation and flexibility that would enable the diplomatic
process to advance and bring about the release of St.- Sgt. Gilad
“In the event that the deal is officially signed, we hope that Gaza will
go in the way of Ramallah and not the opposite,” faction chairman Ilan