Thu Dec 14 2017, 3:43:56 +03

Palestinian towards reconciliation, Hamas handovers Gaza to unity government

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(Gaza-AlummahWorld-Muharram 15, 1439H) In a landmark reconciliation move, Palestine’s unity government met in Gaza for the first time since 2014 on Tuesday as steps continue to be taken toward reconciliation of the long-standing division between the Fatah-led, West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.

The meeting was arranged to discuss the transition of Gaza’s administration to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
Abbas has promised to end punitive measures against Gaza, including the rolling blackout that has caused an electricity crisis there, once the Palestinian Authority has full charge of the strip.

Negotiations for the deal began in earnest following Hamas’ announcement last month that it was willing to allow the PA to take over civilian control of Gaza, a move that Hamas hoped would relieve Israel’s and Egypt’s economic blockade of the strip. Egypt has played a prominent role in the negotiations.

A photo of Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian intelligence, whispering in the ears of Hamas strongman Yahya Sinwar is seen by many as the strongest confirmation yet of cooperation between the two sides.

Thorny issues remain, however: How to deal with the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades; control over border crossings; the fate of tens of thousands of public-service employees hired by Hamas; and a date for municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections.

Hani El-Masri, a Palestinian analyst from Ramallah, told Arab News that achieving full reconciliation will take time. “It is going to be a long story, starting with reaching common ground on the basis for political participation and ending with agreement on how to rebuild the PLO in an inclusive manner,” he said.

Aside from the internal divisions that must be overcome, there are concerns that outside forces might sabotage the current negotiations.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, former minister for Jerusalem affairs in the Haniyeh government, told Arab News that many parties, including the US and Israel — do not want unity between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“We need to be extremely vigilant as there are many parties whose interest is in the failure of reconciliation,” he said. “We need popular Palestinian initiatives that will create a wave of community support to ensure that no one dares go back to the days of division and rift between the Palestinian people.”

On the other side, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the new unity government to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state.

Visiting the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, Netanyahu said: “We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence.”

Abbas has repeatedly rejected Israel’s demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and has called on Israel to change its name in the UN.
Palestinian commentators have also scoffed at the call to recognize Israel while the country opposes a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and refuses to uproot its illegal settlements.

Islamic countries strongly hailed reconciliation efforts of Palestinian Authority and Hamas while leaders from Islamic countries encouraging unity among Palestinians.