Fatah, Hamas agree to form unity government within ‘next five weeks’
Palestinian factions reach deal after late-night reconciliation talks in Gaza; Netanyahu: Instead of making peace with Israel, Abbas is making peace with Hamas.
Fatah and Hamas have reached an agreement in principle to form a unity government within the “next five weeks,” officials said early Wednesday.
A Palestinian official who attended Tuesday’s late-night meeting said there had been an “agreement in principle” on forming a “government of experts,” a term for a cabinet staffed by technocrats rather than politicians.
The agreement, between members of the PLO and Hamas, was reached following talks in Gaza City which began on Tuesday evening, a member of the PLO who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.
“There has also been progress on the holding of future elections and the composition of the PLO,” said the Palestinian official without giving further details.
“A positive atmosphere prevailed” during the meeting, Hamas member Khalil al-Hayya said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Ma’an.
Reconciliation talks were expected to continue throughout Wednesday.
During a meeting with Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister Sebastian Kurz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “instead of moving into peace with Israel, (is) moving into peace with Hamas.”
“He has to choose. Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace (with Israel), so far he hasn’t done so,” Netanyahu said, repeating comments he made on Monday.
Netanyahu on Monday also belittled the PA’s threat to dismantle, saying: “Yesterday the Palestinian Authority discussed dismantling, today it is mulling uniting with Hamas. Let them decide whether to dismantle or unite.”
But Palestinian hopes of reconciliation have been dashed before. Since 2011, Hamas and Fatah have failed to implement an Egyptian-brokered unity deal because of disputes over power-sharing and the handling of conflict with Israel.
An agreement, paving the way for elections and a national strategy towards Israel, could not only give Abbas a measure of sovereignty in Gaza but also help Hamas, hemmed in by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, become less isolated.
The PLO delegation, who arrived Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, is headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, a leader of the nationalist movement Fatah. He was greeted by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and his number two, Moussa Abu Marzouq.
“I called to implement the Palestinian reconciliation in order to form one government, one political system and one national program,” Haniyeh said.
Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, told reporters on Tuesday that if peace talks did not continue, Israel would be obliged to take on the administrative and financial burden of governing Palestinian areas.
Kerry revived the peace talks in July after a nearly three-year hiatus, with the aim of ending a decades-old conflict and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The negotiations plunged into crisis this month when Israel refused to carry out the last of four waves of prisoner releases unless it received assurances the Palestinian leadership would continue the talks beyond the end of April.
After Israel failed to free the prisoners, Abbas responded by signing 15 international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations. Israel condemned the move as a unilateral step toward statehood.
Hamas is adamantly opposed to negotiations with Israel, that have recently reached an impasse with each side refusing the demands of the other to continue negotiations beyond the April 29 deadline.