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
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect