Leaders of 11 Palestinian groups signed an Egypt-mediated accord between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, paving the way for a formal declaration of the agreement.
“All factions, including Fatah and Hamas, have signed onto the Egyptian-drafted pact of reconciliation,” Walid al-Awad, a senior member of the Palestinian People’s Party, told reporters in Cairo today. He said an official ceremony announcing the agreement will be held in the city tomorrow.
Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and the Islamic group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, reached understandings on April 27 that are aimed at ending a nearly four-year rift and paving the way for national elections and a unity government. In 2007, Hamas ousted forces loyal to Abbas from Gaza a year after winning parliamentary elections.
Israel has denounced the agreement and on May 1 said it would withhold tax revenue collected on behalf of the Palestinians until it was certain the funds wouldn’t end up in the hands of Hamas. The U.S., the European Union and Israel consider the group a terrorist organization. Hamas hasn’t participated in peace talks with the Jewish state, which it refuses to recognize.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Abbas to cancel the pact. “The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas deals a severe blow to the peace process,” Netanyahu said before heading to Paris and London. Abbas is also known as Abu Mazen. “How can peace be reached with a government, half of which calls for the destruction of Israel?”
Negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu fell apart last year, several weeks after they began, when Israel refused to extend a partial 10-month construction freeze in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Abbas has said he will resume negotiations only when all building is halted.
Abbas said last week that Fatah, which seeks a negotiated peace agreement with Israel leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, will set the policy in any unity government with Hamas.