The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction and Hamas will work together to achieve an independent Palestinian state and foil Israeli-American "conspiracies" against the Palestinians, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said on Thursday.
Rajoub, who was speaking during a joint teleconference press interview with senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri, said: “We will lead our battle together under the flag of Palestine to achieve an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and solving the issue of the refugees on the basis of international resolutions.”
The joint press conference was the first of its kind in several years between senior Fatah and Hamas officials.
The two rival parties have been at each other’s throat since 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election and its head, Ismail Haniyeh, headed the first Palestinian unity government.
On Wednesday, Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip were invited to attend a major rally organized by Hamas and other Palestinian groups in protest of Israel’s intention to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
Fatah and Hamas officials said that the rally in the Gaza Strip would pave the way for the two parties to resume their efforts to end their dispute.
In 2018, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that would lead to the identification or location of Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau. Arouri has played a key role in forming ties between Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah. He was also responsible for several Hamas terrorist cells in the West Bank that carried out numerous terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Rajoub, a former Palestinian Authority security commander, was recently assigned by Fatah to head a special committee to work towards thwarting the Israeli annexation plan. On Wednesday night, after it became clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no intention to announce the annexation plan, PA President Mahmoud Abbas invited Rajoub to a meeting during which he praised him for his efforts to mobilize the Palestinian street against the annexation plan and achieve unity between Fatah and Hamas.
During Thursday’s press conference with Arouri, Rajoub said that Palestinians were expecting Fatah and Hamas to start working towards achieving national unity. “We are facing exceptional challenges that target our cause,” Rajoub said. “The reaction of our people to the [annexation plan] shows that there is a national consensus to reject the American-Israeli conspiracy.”
Rajoub expressed hope that Fatah and Hamas would “jointly struggle with the utmost harmony and unity,” adding: “We want to open a new page with Hamas. Today we want to emerge with one voice and under one flag and work towards building a strategic vision to confront the challenges with regards to leading the Palestinian street with the participation of all factions.”
The Hamas official, Arouri, said during the press conference that his movement was keen on entering a new phase “that would serve the strategy of our people at one of the most dangerous stages.”
Arouri warned that if Israel manages to apply its sovereignty to any part of the West Bank, it would continue with its annexation plan in the future.
“We have nee destined to confront these schemes, and we cannot remain quiet or live with this reality under any circumstances,” Arouri said. “The annexation plan means annulling the two-state solution because, with this project, it would be impossible to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Referring to unity between Fatah and Hamas, Arouri said that the two groups stand together in confronting and scuttling the annexation plan. “We have done that before and we are capable of doing it again,” the Hamas official said. “Hamas and Fatah did not differ on confronting the occupation and resisting its schemes, even when we were at loggerheads with Fatah. We must freeze our differences for the sake of a strategic agreement to fight against the occupation.”
Arouri praised Abbas for “refusing to make concessions” to Israel. “Our message to the enemy is: Don’t underestimate our resolve or our rejection of the annexation plan. Experience shows that joint work during the First and Second Intifadas succeeded in foiling the occupation’s plans. When we worked together, we forced the occupation to retreat and make concessions.”
Arouri vowed that Hamas would resort to “all forms of struggle and resistance against the annexation plan” and said that his group supports all the Legal and political measures taken by the PA leadership in this regard. We must all realize now that the battlefield has now shifted to the West Bank. Our people in the Gaza Strip are ready and [Hamas military wing spokesman] Abu Obeida has said that the annexation would be considered a declaration of war on the Palestinians.”
Rajoub too warned that the annexation, if implemented, would be tantamount to a declaration of war on the Palestinians. “As of tomorrow, Hamas and Fatah are in the same trench,” he said. “Our conflict with the occupation is an existential conflict. If the annexation is implemented, we will deal with the occupation as an enemy. Today, we declare an agreement with Hamas to confront the annexation plan and [US President Donald Trump’s plan for Mideast peace] the Deal of the Century. The occupation need not test our people and we will confront the annexation with all our capabilities.”
Joint List Ayman Odeh participated in the event saying that he came to Ramallah in order to show support for Palestinian reconciliation. The Likud said that Odeh had hit a new low by participating in an event with Hamas, where there were calls by Hamas and Rajoub to destroy Israel.
Likud MK Shlomo Karhi filed a complaint at the Knesset Ethics Committee.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.