JNN 01 May April :The politically divided Palestinian territories took a major step toward reconciliation Wednesday when the rival movements of Hamas and Fatah announced a deal to form a unity government, officials from both groups said.
The Palestinian movements of Hamas and Fatah will sign a deal to form a unity government next week in the Egyptian capital Cairo, a senior Fatah official says.
Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal will meet Fatah leader and acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo to sign the deal, AFP reported on Friday.
“The signing of the agreement will be on May 4, when Abbas and Meshaal and all the Palestinian factions will meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, who headed the Fatah delegation in talks between the two sides.
The movements, which have been at odds since Hamas came to power in 2006, reached an initial agreement on all controversial issues including the elections and the formation of the interim unity government.
They have also agreed to hold the elections within one year.
The agreement marks the first major foreign-policy victory for Egypt’s new government. Nabil Al Araby, Egypt’s new foreign minister, has made resolving the Middle East conflict one of his primary goals.
One expert described the announcement as a significant development — occurring in the backdrop of uprisings throughout the Arab world.
“If it goes through, it’s a very big deal,” Gelvin said of the agreement. “From 1964 to 2007, the Palestinian national movement spoke with one voice. Beginning in 2007, the Palestinian national movement spoke with two voices. So if the Palestinians are going to attempt to move toward statehood, they’re going to have to speak with one voice again.” said James Gelvin, a history professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and a Middle East expert
On March 15, Palestinian demonstrators filled al Manara Square in Ramallah, but their demands were for an end to the split between Hamas and Fatah rather than the revolutionary themes in other Arab countries
“It’s essentially a great blow for American policy,” said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah’s negotiating team, formally announced the deal in Cairo.
“Today, we signed a memorandum of understanding outlining points that we agree on regarding what the Egyptian proposal suggested,” al-Ahmad said. “We also added our agreement to form a government made up of independent figures.
“We agreed on a date for elections and talked about national participation and cooperation in the post-elections period,” he added.
The agreement, however, has sparked an outrage among Israeli officials, who threatened the Palestinian Authority with retaliatory measures if the deal is signed.
Hamas official from Gaza Mahmud Zahar said although the movement was committed to its strategy of “no recognition and no negotiations” with Israel, it would not insist that Fatah stop negotiating with Tel Aviv.
“If Fatah wants to bear the responsibility for negotiating on nonsense, let it. If it manages to get a state, good for them,” Zahar said. “We didn’t view what was happening as a peace process, so we didn’t take part in it,” he said.
Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories has brought to halt negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinians have demanded Israel freeze settlement construction, arguing that the continuation of settlement units reduces the chance of establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Israel seized East al-Quds (Jerusalem), along with the West Bank, in the Six Day War of 1967, and later annexed it in defiance of calls from the international community.
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its aggressions against the Palestinians are aimed at plundering their natural wealth, says a Middle East expert.
“People don’t understand that this conflict is also to do with natural resources because in the offshore Gaza area is vast reserves of natural gas,” Peter Eyre, a Middle East consultant in London, told Press on Thursday.
“… Given the opportunity, this small nucleus of two separate entities [Gaza Strip and the West Bank], if they come together, has got enough wealth to become what I call the mini-Dubai of the eastern Mediterranean –that is perfectly possible,” Eyre said.
“Palestinian people have got tremendous wealth at their fingertips,” he added.
Eyre also expressed pleasure over a pact made recently between Palestinian factions to form a transitional unity government and hold future elections.
“I’m quite happy with the way things have gone on; for the first time we have two factions that have come together and that’s a wonderful achievement,” the Middle East consultant said.
He also lauded the fact that the agreement was achieved without external interference.
“It’s all been organized within the Arab states…They don’t let the West to resolve this issue,” Eyre said.
Eyre further pointed out that the West has always sided with Israel and that has been a longstanding “obstacle” on the way to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Delegations representing Hamas and Fatah came to an understanding on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where they resumed unity talks.
Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since the former won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006.
Fatah set up headquarters in the Isra