New move to end rift between Hamas and Palestinian Authority

Binyamin Netanyahu warns Israel will not accept ‘fake’ reconciliation

Palestinian prime minister Rami al-Hamdallah  (left) shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, on October 2nd, 2017. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Palestinian prime minister Rami al-Hamdallah (left) shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, on October 2nd, 2017. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

 

Prime minister Rami al-Hamdallah has chaired the first meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip for three years as efforts to end the bitter rift between the Islamist Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) moved into top gear.

“Today, we stand before an important, historical moment as we begin to get over our wounds, put our differences aside and place the higher national interest above all else,” said Mr Hamdallah, head of the Fatah-dominated West Bank government.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Mr Abbas, essentially dividing the Palestinian autonomous areas into two separate, rival entities: the West Bank, controlled by forces loyal to Mr Abbas, and the Gaza Strip, under Hamas control.

Speaking during a tour of the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim ,where he declared support for annexing 19 Jerusalem-area settlements to Israel, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel wouldn’t accept the “fake” reconciliation.

“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognise Israel and, of course, recognise a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations under which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” he said.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognise the state of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing and sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction.”

Hamas made the first step towards Palestinian reconciliation when it dismantled its shadow government in Gaza last month. However, Hamas officials criticised the fact that the PA has left in place the harsh economic sanctions it imposed on Gaza, including withholding fuel supplies and the salaries of Gazan civil servants.

“The government has assumed its responsibilities in Gaza and therefore, delay is not justified,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.”There is no excuse for delaying or undermining measures that would ease the suffering of Gaza’s people.”

No one believes the road to reconciliation will be easy and Mr Abbas clarified he does not intend to accept the Lebanon’s Hizbullah precedent, which would leave Hamas armed forces intact.

“If anyone belonging to Fatah carries illegal firearms in the West Bank they’ll be arrested. And that should precisely be the situation in Gaza. It should have only one weapon and one force.”

Jason Greenblatt, the special representative to US president Donald Trump, said that Washington welcomed the efforts to enable the PA to extend its full responsibility over Gaza and that it would closely monitor developments on the ground. He stressed that any Palestinian government must explicitly and unequivocally commit to forswear terror, recognise Israel, recognise previous agreements and hold peaceful negotiations.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who dispatched his intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy to the Gaza cabinet meeting, said Palestinian reconciliation was an important step towards peace in the region.

“If the world powers see the unity of the Palestinian parties, it will help to realise complete peace in the region.”