Israel dismayed as Fatah strikes surprise deal with Hamas

The Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to end a four-year rift in a surprise move that could have profound implications for the stalled Arab-Israeli peace process.

Fatah, the party dominant in the West Bank, and its Islamist rival Hamas, which governs Gaza, have reached a preliminary agreement to form an interim government within days and hold general elections within the year, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said.

"All points of differences have been overcome," said Taher al-Nono, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza.

The Egypt-brokered unity deal, if it is signed, is likely to have huge significance for the peace process. While Palestinians have long viewed unity as critical to achieving an independent state, Israel said that it would reject any peace negotiations with a government that includes Hamas.

"The Palestinian Authority must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "There cannot be peace with both because Hamas strives to destroy the state of Israel.

"The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria the way it seized control of the Gaza Strip," the Prime Minister added, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

The United States, a key broker in the Middle East peace process, reacted cautiously to the news, saying that, if Hamas is to play a constructive role, it must first renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and respect past agreements.

Since US-sponsored peace talks foundered last autumn, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has intensified his efforts to reach a unity deal ahead of plans to seek United Nations support in September for an independent state based on the 1967 borders. Last month, he said he was prepared to go to Gaza to meet with Hamas leaders to pave the way for elections.

Nevertheless, the speed of yesterday's agreement, which followed secret talks, took many by surprise, as previous talks had repeatedly broken down. The two sides did come close to an agreement in 2009 only for talks to founder at the eleventh hour.

The preliminary accord is still in its infancy, and many questions remain unanswered as to how the two factions will thrash out what are very profound areas of disagreement, including who will govern the security forces in the West Bank and Gaza and how to resolve the decades-long conflict with Israel.

Egypt will now invite all Palestinian factions to Cairo to sign a reconciliation agreement, officials said. The two factions have been estranged ever since Hamas unexpectedly won the 2006 elections, routing Fatah. Although the two formed a short-lived coalition government in 2007, it fell apart amid bloody fighting in Gaza. Hamas seized control of Gaza, while Mr Abbas formed his own government in the West Bank. The schism effectively split the two territories, a split that became more permanent when Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza.

Palestinians on the street lament the schism that has been one of the main obstacles to enduring peace in the Middle East, as any agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank would leave the issue of Hamas and Gaza unresolved.

As mass protests swept across the Middle East this spring, it has been unusually quiet in the Occupied Territories, not least because many people are unsure whether to protest against the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, or against the Israeli occupation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower