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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried