'Hamas-Fatah unity would harm diplomatic process'

Officials in J’lem warn Abbas can't have both peace with Israel, reconciliation with Hamas; PA officials: Deal moving forward.

PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cannot have both peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas, officials in Jerusalem said on Thursday as Fatah announced significant progress toward forming a unity government with Hamas.
“If Abbas consummates this marriage in a meeting next week with [Hamas head Khaled] Mashaal, this is a big problem for us,” one official said. “We have said before that Abbas can choose peace with us or Hamas, but they don’t go together.”
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Washington is also sending messages to Abbas not to sign off on a deal with Hamas, warning that the PA could once again face a cutoff of US funds if it did so without Hamas first recognizing Israel, forswearing terrorism, and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Congress temporarily held up funding to the PA after Abbas took his statehood bid to the UN in September.
One Israeli official characterized Abbas’s behavior over the past few months as “problematic,” saying that this was seen by his moves at the UN, his public praise for the kidnapping of soldier Gilad Schalit, and his refusal to condemn last month’s round of missile fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
“If he now consummates all that with a move forward toward Hamas, it can seriously harm the peace process,” the official said. He stopped short, however, of saying what concrete actions Israel would take in response to a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement.
Meanwhile, senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said on Thursday that Fatah and Hamas were close to reaching agreement on the identity of the prime minister who would head a new caretaker government dominated by independent figures. He also said the two parties were close to agreeing on a joint-political platform.
The new government’s main goal would be to prepare for elections, he added.
The announcement came ahead of a planned summit in Cairo on November 23 between Abbas and Mashaal.
Last May, Hamas and Fatah announced that they had reached an agreement to end their differences and form a government that would prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.
However, Fatah’s insistence on the nomination of incumbent Salam Fayyad as head of the unity government prevented the implementation of the Egyptianengineered reconciliation deal.
Hamas says it would never be part of any government that was headed by Fayyad. The party blames him for the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank and says he was a figure imposed on the Palestinians by the US.
But in recent days some Fatah officials appear to have changed their minds and are no longer insisting that Fayyad serve as prime minister of the proposed unity government.
Earlier this week, Fayyad expressed readiness to step down to avoid being an obstacle to the implementation of the Hamas-Fatah accord.
Ahmed revealed this week that he had held secret talks in Cairo with top Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk to discuss ways of removing obstacles hindering the implementation of the reconciliation agreement.
According to a senior PA official in Ramallah, Ahmed informed the Hamas official that Fatah was no longer insisting on Fayyad’s candidacy.
Ahmed said that Fatah and Hamas have made progress toward reaching an agreement on the political platform of the new government. He said the platform calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, launching a “popular resistance” and continuing Palestinian political moves in international forums such as the UN.