On Monday Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal have agreed on the formation of a unity government between the Fatah and the Hamas, which will prepare for upcoming elections in the West Bank and Gaza (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
Under the agreement signed in the Qatari capital Mr Abbas will lead this interim government.
A few hours after this announcement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the deal with Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel and Western nations.
“It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can’t have them both,” he said.
“Hamas and peace do not go hand in hand,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“Hamas is a terror organisation and is aimed at the destruction of Israel.”
No apparent progress cam from last month’s talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the first in more than a year.
In a phone call to Mr Abbas, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged him to not abandon talks with Israel, saying that “the two tracks” of Palestinian reconciliation and negotiations with Israel “should not be seen as contradictory”, according to Mr Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal have been holding talks in Qatar over a reconciliation deal reached in April 2011, which aimed at ending more than four years of separate governments in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the West Bank governed by Mr Abbas’s Western backed Palestinian Authority.
The April deal says that an interim government is to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.
While the elections were expected to be held in May, the Palestinian election commission says more time will be needed, according to Reuters news agency.
Mr Abbas said both sides were serious about political unity.
Mr Meshaal said : “We inform our people that we are serious about healing the wounds… to reunite our people on the foundation of a political partnership, in order to devote our effort to resisting the [Israeli] occupation.”
A Fatah official told the AFP news agency that the line-up of the government will be announced on 18 February in Cairo.
It will be made up of technocrats and independents, reports say.
‘Commit to non-violence’
The European Union, one of the major financial backers of the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian reconciliation and elections were important steps toward an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But although it “looks forward to continuing its support”, the EU said the new Palestinian government must be committed to non-violence, recognise Israel and support a negotiated solution to the Mideast conflict, said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The Middle East Quartet, made of the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, added that before a Palestinian unity government can be recognised Hamas should back past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Palestinian government “must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence”, said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding that “It must recognize the state of Israel and it must accept the previous agreements and obligations between the parties, including the road map.”