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Abbas� Fatah Party Reaches Unity Government Deal with Hamas

Bridges For Peace (Link) - BFP Israel Mosaic Radio - Joshua Spurlock (April 27, 2011)

In a move that could send shockwaves through Israel, Palestinian Authority [PA] head Mahmoud Abbas� Fatah party and the terrorist Hamas group have agreed to form an interim national unity government, according to The Jerusalem Post. The agreement, which still must be signed, includes plans to hold new elections in a year and poses a serious threat to obliterate any chance of a renewed peace process between Israel and the PA. Among other concerns, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel�s right to exist, and one senior official has already dismissed joining peace talks.

In a response to the expected unity agreement, posted on the Prime Minister�s Office Web site, Benjamin Netanyahu said, �The Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Peace with both is impossible because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel and says so openly. It fires missiles at our cities; it fires anti-tank rockets at our children.�

Hamas is in agreement with Netanyahu�s sentiment that they are opposed to a peace deal. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said Hamas would not participate in peace talks with Israel, reported The Jerusalem Post. �Our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it,� Zahar said. �It will be impossible for an interim government to take part in the peace process with Israel.�

The Jerusalem Post noted in their coverage of the Palestinian reconciliation deal that the signing of a previous deal in 2009 fell apart at the last minute. However, that appears unlikely to happen here. The head of the Fatah negotiating delegation said regarding the current agreement that the sides have agreed on all the disputed issues.

The Israeli newspaper reported that a member of the Hamas delegation said the sides have signed initial letters of the deal, with a final signing still to come between the two factions� leaders. Zahar also has outlined several of the terms of the Palestinian unity deal, including forming an interim unity government made up of �professional� figures, each side releasing the other�s prisoners and forming a security committee.

The Jerusalem Post did not detail how security cooperation would be handled, however, that could threaten the cooperation between Israel and PA security forces that has helped keep a lid on terrorism in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. In addition, a mass prisoner release could put Hamas terrorists back on the streets.

The agreement between the sides comes nearly four years after Hamas forced Fatah out the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup and thereby split the Palestinian government into two. Netanyahu, speaking in his statement with surprisingly blunt language, actually raised the possibility that such a scenario could play out in the West Bank as well.

�I think that the very idea of this reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and causes one to wonder if Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria like it seized control of the Gaza Strip,� said Netanyahu. �I hope that the Palestinian Authority chooses correctly, i.e. that it chooses peace with Israel. The choice is in its hands.�

The events also don�t bode well for the American efforts to restart the peace process unless Hamas is willing to make dramatic reforms they have so far resisted. Back when Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, the Mideast Quartet�the US, European Union, Russia and the United Nations�called upon Hamas to adhere to a set of principles, including recognizing Israel�s right to exist.

A US State Department official, speaking with Bridges for Peace on Wednesday afternoon [April 27], noted that the US still needs more information about the Palestinian unity deal but hasn�t dropped the Quartet�s principles.

�We have seen the press reports and are seeking more information. As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. To play a constructive role, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles by renouncing violence, accepting past agreements, and recognizing Israel�s right to exist.�

The Jerusalem Post said the Palestinian deal was reached under Egyptian mediation, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby arguing reconciliation was important to Palestinian efforts to acquire statehood recognition. The Palestinians are expected to go to the United Nations to seek recognition of a state in September. �

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