Israeli threat unites Hamas, Fatah
With Israeli troops on Gaza border, militant Hamas sided with Fatah on an implicit two-state solution.
Under mounting international pressure to free a kidnapped Israeli soldier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh closed ranks Tuesday by concluding a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending months of violent Hamas-Fatah fighting and laying down principles for talks with Israel.Skip to next paragraph
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The pact between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Haniyeh serves to prop up the political rivals at a time when a hostage standoff threatens an Israeli army retaliatory invasion of Gaza.
"Now it seems they're in the same boat because they have a serious threat to their political existence," says Shaul Mishal, a Tel Aviv University political science professor who has authored a book on Hamas. "They need badly to maintain their status within the Palestinian public. [Sunday's kidnapping of an Israeli soldier] shows their weakness, and they have no real control. People do what they want, or they listen to someone else – not the government."
Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in Lebanon close to the organization's hard-line leadership in Damascus, criticized Abbas Tuesday for helping Israel search for the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held in southern Gaza, the Associated Press reported. Instead, the official continued, Palestinians should kidnap more Israelis to use as bargaining chips.
Meanwhile, Israel's military is becoming increasingly convinced that an Israeli settler also missing since Sunday has been kidnapped, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday.
In Gaza City, one Palestinian was killed Tuesday and several others were injured from a missile fired on a car traveling near Abbas's office, Israel Radio reported. Israel's military denied involvement in the attack.
The Abbas-Haniyeh agreement is based on a document drafted by a coalition of jailed Palestinian militant leaders that calls for Hamas's integration into the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Because the PLO is the signatory to peace accords with Israel, the bargain is seen as a major departure for Hamas, which has opposed peace negotiations and the idea of Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting alongside one another.
The document also calls for a unity government with Fatah, another concession by the Islamic militants who would be admitting they are unable to govern without the help of their bitter adversaries.
A commitment limiting Palestinian attacks to territories conquered by the Jewish state in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war has been seen as yet another Hamas concession, but in tolerating attacks by Palestinian militia groups it marks a compromise on Abbas's vocal criticism of the militarized uprising.
And new language in the document seems to give Hamas leeway on which to oppose a two-state solution in the future, said Reuters.
Haniyeh and Abbas were reported to have been on the verge of concluding the agreement Saturday night just hours before a detachment of Palestinian militants raided Israeli military positions near Gaza by tunneling under the border. Two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian militants were killed in an attack seen by many as an attempt by Hamas's hard-line leadership to undermine the accord.
Fatah leaders have said that this accord with Hamas isn't far reaching enough to form the foundation for peace talks with Israel, but that it is instead aimed to end weeks of infighting that have claimed the lives of 20 Palestinians and spurred new anarchy in the West Bank and Gaza.