In a major breakthrough amid deadlocked peace talks with Israel, rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to implement a key reconciliation deal, seven years after they fought pitched street battles and Hamas took control of the coastal Gaza Strip.
“There has been great progress, and we are nearly ready to sign a deal,” Munib Al-Masri, a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party delegation in the Gaza Strip said. Al-Masri said that the two sides had reached an agreement
on all issues, including holding elections within six months. Islamist Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zahawiri,
issued a similar statement. A unity government headed by Abbas would be created in the coming period, he said.
Al Jazeera quoted Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh as telling the Fatah delegation that “the possibility
for further separation between the two movements is no longer possible given the current circumstances.” The agreement was reached during a meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday between a Fatah delegation to Gaza led by Azzam al-Ahmad and Hamas leaders, including Haniyeh and the movement’s deputy head Musa Abu Marzouk.
As per local media reports, the reconciliation deal is expected to be based primarily on the agreements signed by the factions in Cairo and in Doha. Senior leaders of the two factions had on Sunday met in Cairo and according to reports in the Egyptian media, they achieved “real progress” after Hamas agreed to give in on one of its fundamental conditions of the agreement.
This condition had determined that elections for the legislative authority and the Palestinian National Council take place on the same day, but after all other clauses in the agreement have been met, which includes the distribution of ministerial portfolios and focuses of power.
Hamas will make do with a clause by which a temporary new leadership will be established for the Palestine Liberation
Organisation in which all of the Palestinian organisations will be represented, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The parties also agreed to begin two weeks of talks on the establishment of a national unity government, and only thereafter to discuss a date for elections and the distribution of portfolios in the unified PLO leadership.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday in a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz that Abbas needs to choose whether he wants peace with Israel or Hamas, because he cannot have both. “He must choose,” Netanyahu said.
Does he want reconciliation with Hamas, or peace with Israel? Only one is attainable, not both. I hope he chooses peace, until now he has not done so,” the Israeli Prime Minister said. US-mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have come to a standstill as a nine-month deadline approaches on April 29 and efforts to continue negotiations under the framework seem increasingly difficult to materialise.
Netanyahu accused the PA leadership for the failure saying every time the sides get close to an agreement, Abbas adds new conditions “knowing that Israel cannot accept them.” During a meeting with Israeli journalists yesterday, the PA President laid down his three conditions for continuing talks with Israel.
These are – Israel release the fourth batch of Palestinian security prisoners, including Israeli-Arabs, and that none of them be deported; that Israel freeze all settlement construction; and that the first three months of the extended talks deal with the borders of a future Palestinian state. Israel has rejected those conditions.