After talks in Cairo, the Hamas and Fatah (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk), the party of Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas, both agreed to form an interim government and fix a date for general elections.
For more than four years, the two have been divided, after violence erupted following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections in 2006. Since 2007 Hamas is in power in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.
Inspired by uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza this month, demanding a reconciliation.
Israel’s reaction was immediate, on Tuesday Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Palestinian Authority : “There cannot be peace with both [Israel and Hamas] because Hamas wants to destroy Israel and says so openly. It shoots missiles at our cities, it fires anti-tank missiles at our children.
“I think that the idea of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and raises the question whether Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] as it has taken over the Gaza Strip.”
He added : “I hope the Palestinian Authority will make the right choice – peace with Israel.”
In the past four years Hamas has carried out bombings and rocket attacks against Israel, and refused to recognise its right to exist.
US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said: “The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace.
“Hamas, however, is a terrorist organisation which targets civilians. To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must… renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognise Israel’s right to exist.”
The deal was hammered out during a meeting in the Egyptian capital. From Cairo, Tahir al-Nounou, a Hamas government spokesman, said all disagreements had been overcome.
He told the BBC: “Hamas and Fatah have signed in principle a reconciliation deal in Cairo.
“The final signing will be in a week from now. Cairo will invite Mahmoud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Khaled Meshaal, and representatives from all Palestinian factions, to attend the signing.”
About Israel’s reaction to the deal, he said that Israel was “not concerned with Palestinian reconciliation and has been an impediment to it in the past”.
Fatah delegation head Azzam al-Ahmad said: “We have agreed to form a government composed of independent figures that would start preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Elections would be held in about eight months from now.”.