What needs to be solved for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation
Fatah agreed Wednesday to an Egyptian-backed deal, but tension over the Goldstone report and deep distrust have left many skeptical.
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"He is predicting that the political process is heading to a dead end with the Israelis," says Mr. Shaheen, the Al Ayyam editor. "President Abbas needs to strengthen his situation and he might be forced to speak with Hamas and reach an agreement."Skip to next paragraph
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Tension over the Goldstone report
Officials and analysts also suggested that Fatah's gesture this week was a tactical move aimed at shifting pressure onto Hamas after several weeks in which Abbas has come under harsh criticism at home for his positions on peace negotiations with Israel and for postponing action on the UN-issued Goldstone report, the most comprehensive international investigation of Israel's offensive in Gaza earlier this year.
"Our standing has been hurt a lot," says Kadoura Fares, a Fatah party leader from Ramallah. "We are interested in creating the impression that we are not putting a blockade in front of reconciliation, and that Hamas wants to evade signing an agreement."
The Palestinian leadership has since reversed its position on the Goldstone report, pressing for its approval during two debates in the UN Security Council this week. Abbas's request for a UN delay on approving the report, which accused the Israeli army of breaking international law during its war against Hamas missile launchers in January, sparked widespread Palestinian anger.
In Gaza last week, Hamas supporters threw their shows at a picture of Abbas with an X though it, reflecting widespread Palestinian anger at the move – even in the West Bank.
Before Abbas agreed under US pressure to delay action on the Goldstone report, Hamas had said it was ready to sign an agreement. But on Oct. 7 Hamas canceled plans for a meeting with Fatah in Cairo, where the two were expected to sign a deal Oct. 26.
On Wednesday, Israeli website Ynet reported that Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said the organization would not be pressured into signing a reconciliation agreement.
"The Goldstone report is still shaking the atmosphere," he said.
On Tuesday in Jenin, Abbas referred to Hamas-controlled Gaza as a "dark emirate" and accused Hamas gunmen of fleeing the Gaza Strip during the war.
Such comments raise questions about whether reported progress in the unity talks reflect a desire for genuine agreement.
"A lot of people believe that we're in the realm of PR spin in term of this reconciliation agreement," said Rob Blecher, a regional analyst at the International Crisis Group. "National reconciliation is a big Palestinian public demand. Both sides want to play the reconciliation card to their advantage."
Why reconciliation is important to US, Israel, and Egypt
Reconciliation is a wild card for Israel and the US, which have said that a Palestinian powersharing government must back peace talks, recognize Israel and stop violence. It would provide a test of President Barack Obama's policy of engaging US enemies in political talks. Israel is unlikely to recognize a government with Hamas participation.
For Egypt, an accord would mark an important ratification of its influence as a regional mediator.
The Egyptian plan calls for Palestinian elections in June 2010, a vote which Abbas hopes will weaken Hamas' hold on the Palestinian parliament. But it also envisions sharing security powers in Gaza with Hamas, an arrangement that will be difficult for Fatah's security officers to swallow.