Rival Palestinian officials from Fatah and Hamas sparred publicly today over reports that the two sides were once again on the brink of signing a power-sharing agreement before a new bid for state recognition at the United Nations this month.
The two groups have been at loggerheads since 2007, when Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup, dividing Palestinian territory between the West Bank, ruled by Fatah, and the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas.
Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, said on Wednesday that Hamas had submitted new proposals for reconciliation to Egyptian mediators in Cairo. Reports suggested that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, might meet as early as next week with the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Egyptian capital to sign the deal. A previous agreement signed by the two in May 2011 was never implemented.
Rumours of a deal that would replace the government of Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister, with a cabinet of technocrats prompted Mr Fayyad to seek a public display of support. Mr Fayyad has said that he would stand aside if necessary to help the reconciliation process.
Nonetheless, Fatah officials said the Hamas announcement was a bluff. “We are not aware of any new proposals from Hamas,” said Dmitri Diliani, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. “This is not the time for new ideas. It is time to act on the agreement already signed and give the people of Gaza the right to vote in elections that has been denied to them by Hamas.”
“We would prefer reconciliation before applying to the UN for recognition as a state but it is not a requirement and we will not allow the UN process to be a hostage to the internal politics of Hamas and their alliances with Iran and other parties,” he said.
Palestinian leaders say they are determined to upgrade their UN status from “observer” to “non-member state”, setting the stage for a diplomatic showdown that will pit the Palestinians, Arab states, the developing world and Europe against Israel and the US.
Palestinian envoys were dispatched to Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Finland this week to persuade those countries to vote in favour of the UN move.
“We are urging them to vote in favour of the Palestinian proposal,” said the Palestinian foreign affairs minister, Riad Malki. “We hope this will clarify the picture for those countries.”