PM lands in London to lobby against Fatah-Hamas deal

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with UK’s Cameron, France’s Sarkozy, as Palestinian factions are set to ratify deal in Cairo.

PM Netanyahu and wife Sarah headed to London 311 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
PM Netanyahu and wife Sarah headed to London 311
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu landed in London early Wednesday in a trip where he is expected to lobby European leaders against a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement.
Before departing Israel on Tuesday night, the prime minister called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to drop the unity agreement with Hamas that he is expected to sign in Cairo on Wednesday.
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In England, where he plans to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and than again in France when he meets with President Nicholas Sarkozy, Netanyahu is expected to urge them not to recognize a Fatah-Hamas government.
Palestinian leaders have defended the unity agreement, saying reconciliation with Hamas reflects a deep-seated public desire to end internal differences.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas officials were quoted as saying that the Islamist group would continue to honor its unofficial truce with Israel after signing the unity deal with Fatah.
The agreement was signed by several smaller Palestinian factions on Tuesday.
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas spokesman, said all Palestinian factions and independent Palestinian politicians met in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the agreement.
“All the factions signed today [Tuesday], and tomorrow we will celebrate the reconciliation under Egyptian patronage and in the presence of Abbas and [Hamas chief] Khaled Meshaal,” he told Reuters.
Another Palestinian official, who declined to be identified, said the smaller factions had inked the deal to show their backing for reconciliation, but that the ceremonial signing would take place on Wednesday between the two big factions.
“Fatah and Hamas will sign with full names tomorrow in a signing ceremony celebrated by all,” the official said.
Diplomats said foreign and Arab dignitaries, including European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, were invited to the ceremony.
An EU spokeswoman in Cairo said Ashton was invited but that the mission could not confirm that she would attend.
The PA interim government, which Palestinian officials said would consist of independent technocrats with no affiliation to either faction, is to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections within a year.
Egypt has said it will help oversee the implementation of the accord.
International leaders have had a cautious approach to the unity agreement. They wanted Hamas and Fatah to come together, but at the same time envisioned that it would come hand in hand with a recognition of the State of Israel, a renunciation of terrorism and an acceptance of all past agreements.
Hamas has continued to reject all three conditions.
Netanyahu is expected to tell Cameron and Sarkozy that they should not recognize the new government until these terms are met.
He will also discuss wider regional issues, such as Iran, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the upheavals in neighboring countries.
The trip was initially designed with an eye to thwarting a bid by the PA to seek recognition of unilaterally declared statehood at the United Nations.
It was scheduled in advance of a trip later this month to the United States in which Netanyahu was expected to deliver a major address on the stalled peace process to a joint session of Congress.
Since the European
trip was planned, however, a number of events have expanded the agenda, including the killing of bin Laden and the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement.
Speaking before his Tuesday evening departure, Netanyahu made a direct plea to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reverse course on the reconciliation agreement.
“I call on Abu Mazen [Abbas] to annul the agreement with Hamas immediately and choose the path of peace with Israel,” Netanyahu said as he met in Jerusalem with Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
“The agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a hard blow to the peace process. How is it possible to achieve peace with a government – half of which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and even praises the arch-murderer Osama bin Laden?” the prime minister asked.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.