The two rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas said they reached an agreement Wednesday on reuniting their governments in the West Bank and Gaza. The plan was brokered by Egypt. It calls for the formation of a single caretaker government in the coming days. The government would administer day-to-day business until new presidential and legislative elections are to be held in a year's time.
"The people want to end the division ... and we say: what you demanded has been achieved today," said Azzam al-Ahmed, the chief Fatah negotiator at a news conference in Cairo with his Hamas counterpart. The two groups signed an initial deal Wednesday.
Rivalries between the two Palestinian factions became serious in 2006 after Hamas won elections in Gaza and the West Bank. Fatah and Hamas formed a short-lived unity government in 2007. However it split after Hamas aborted an attempted coup by Fatah to seize power in Gaza that was pre cooked with the help of the U.S.. The split left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah, in the West Bank.
The two groups have been negotiating a deal since more than a year, but earlier attempts all failed. Hani Masri, a member of a Palestinian delegation that met with Hamas leaders in Syria and the new leadership in Egypt, said the political upheavals in both countries pushed the two rivals together and "made the agreement possible."
The current agreement still appears shaky. Hamas officials in Gaza said their security forces would retain control over the coastal strip for the time being. Al-Ahmed, the chief Fatah negotiator, said that under the deal, Fatah and Hamas security forces would be unified and "restructured" under "Arab supervision."
The security forces are at the heart of the Palestinian rift.
Under the agreement president Abbas will remain in power for the time being, but the two prime ministers — Salam Fayyad in the West Bank and Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza — are to resign. Al-Ahmed said the sides would need to agree on a new prime minister in the coming days. He added that the new government would consist solely of political independents in order to not anger the international community.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera English Saree Makdisi raises an intersting point: Unity between Hamas and Fatah concerns only a minority of Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. It´s time that all Palestinians, those in the diaspora and the ones who live in Israel proper, are also involved in the process, he says
The Palestinian unity is not likely to push the peace process forward with Israel refusing to deal with Hamas which it considerers a terrorist orgnization. Also it is not yet clear whether the PA will proceed with its plan to ask the United Nations in the Fall to recognize a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Israeli prime minister Netanyahu said that the Palestinian Authority must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. ´Peace with both is impossible,´ he said in a stamenet, ´because of the Hamas goal of destroying the state of Israel, which it expresses openly´. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke-Fulton called on the future Palestinian government to recognize Israel — something Hamas has steadfastly refused to do.