The leaders of Fatah and Hamas yesterday agreed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could head an interim "unity" cabinet to pave the way for fresh future elections in Gaza and the West Bank.
The accord signed by Abbas and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashal in Qatar cleared one important obstacle standing in the way of the two factions working together and ending more than four years of enmity.
By providing for Mahmoud Abbas to take on the premiership of a jointly agreed "technocratic" cabinet, the deal will be seen as a an effort to produce a leadership acceptable to at least some foreign governments, while acceding to Hamas demands that the internationally respected Salam Fayyad stand down as Prime Minister.
Fayyad, who has long said he would not be the reason for a breakdown in negotiations between the two factions, yesterday welcomed the agreement as "a response to the aspirations of our people to restore unity to the homeland and its institutions." But Fayyad, who is not a member of either Fatah or Hamas, did not immediately say whether he would be part of the new cabinet, assuming it takes office.
Progress had hitherto been slow in negotiations to heal the schism which peaked when Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, seized control of Gaza by force in 2007, after the brief civil war which ended a short lived coalition between the two factions.
Abbas said on Monday that a unity government would “heal wounds and end the chapter of division.” The reconciliation agreement allows the cabinet is to start preparations for general Palestinian elections, both presidential and parliamentary.
The two parties reached a breakthrough peace agreement last year, but their dispute on who would head an interim government delayed its implementation.
Abbas has been depicted as warming to the idea of reconciliation with Hamas because of deep skepticism that current, badly faltering negotiations with Israel would lead to an agreement. But Palestinian analysts differed over how far the latest Hamas-Fatah deal would prove a defining breakthrough on the path to reconciliation.
Netanyahu condemns reconciliation
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the reconciliation of rival Palestine factions Fatah and Hamas. He says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' agreement to head the caretaker cabinet shows Abbas has “abandoned the path of peace.”
"Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel, and is supported by Iran," Netanyahu said hours after the reconciliation agreement was signed in Qatar.
"It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can't have them both. If Abbas realizes what was signed in Doha shows that he is choosing to abandon the path of peace and join with Hamas, without Hamas accepting the minimal conditions of the international community," the Israeli PM added.
The U.S. and Europe, send millions of dollars in financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, and have said earlier they would not keep up ties with a cabinet including even a single Hamas member. Previously, Washington blocked $200 million in a response to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. In order to avoid that, the fresh pact between the two factions proposes the interim government be made up of independent technocrats.
— The Independent, RT, TAAN