Abbas urges cooperation for Palestinian unity

Israeli gov't official says Palestinian reconciliation is a move in the wrong direction, would damage peace process.

Abbas and Hamas leader (photo credit: Reuters)
Abbas and Hamas leader
(photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he would begin talks with rival factions, including Hamas, to form a unity government.
But, underscoring the chasm between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas had not consulted his group about his move and the Islamists had only heard about it in media reports.
Past unity attempts have foundered because Hamas and Fatah have been unable to agree to a joint agenda, above all on how to handle the conflict with Israel.
Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction while Fatah supports a negotiated solution providing for a Palestinian state coexisting alongside Israel.
One Israeli government official said reconciliation would be a move in the wrong direction.
“If Fatah moves toward Hamas, they walk away from peace, and this would be highly problematic in our relationship with the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
The official said there was a great deal of effort taking place right now, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, to restart the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
“We think it is possible,” he added. “But if the PA embraces Hamas it would throw everything out of sync, and destroy the chances of re-engagement before they even had a chance to ripen.”
The need to form a new PA administration was prompted by the resignation earlier this month of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad because of a rift between him and Abbas, and it has created an opportunity for Abbas to forge a unity government.
Abbas published a statement on the Palestinian official news agency, WAFA, on Saturday urging factions “to cooperate” with his effort to form a national unity government that would be charged with readying presidential and parliamentary elections.
Hamas and Fatah have repeatedly failed to bridge their political differences despite signing an Egyptian- brokered reconciliation agreement in 2011. There have been no substantive moves to implement the accord.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the PLO, said Palestinian basic law required forming a new administration because of Fayyad’s resignation.
“Abbas’s step has thrown the ball into Hamas’s court to agree on a date for holding elections and they will be responsible for the failure if they do not accept,” Abu Youssef told Reuters.
Abu Zuhri said holding elections was not possible under the current circumstances in the West Bank because Israel maintained overall control of the territory and Fatah continued to arrest Hamas