Israel blames Abbas for choosing Hamas over peace. Is he?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed today to accelerate reconciliation with Hamas, a sworn enemy of Israel, with elections to be held in May.
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Hamas-Fatah meeting next week
Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party had formed a unity government in 2006, after Hamas won elections that year. But they split in 2007, when Fatah was violently ousted from the Gaza Strip. Since then, Hamas has ruled Gaza, while the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has run the West Bank.Skip to next paragraph
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Anticipation of a breakthrough on the Fatah-Hamas impasse has been stoked in part by a scheduled meeting between the president and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo next week. The two haven’t met since last May, when Fatah signed a unity deal with Hamas.
At the time of the May announcement, Netanyahu said that Abbas must choose between peace with Hamas and peace with Israel. But Abbas has pointed to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem as evidence that the current Israeli government isn’t interested creating a viable Palestinian state.
Fayyad, darling of the West, likely to step down
Abbas emerged weaker after the Palestinians failed to muster a majority at the Security Council in favor of full membership. A Security Council committee that reviewed the Palestinian application specifically mentioned the four-year divide between the West Bank and Gaza as a problem.
In an address on Wednesday, Abbas vowed to accelerate reconciliation with Hamas. A unity deal would help the Palestinian president recover some of the lost prestige. But the Islamist militant group is in a stronger position after a prisoner swap with Israel that freed hundreds of Palestinians.
The original reconciliation deal called for a unity cabinet and elections within a year, however the sides never agreed on a cabinet. Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, has demanded that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a darling of the West for his reputation as being tough on corruption, step down.
Still that task of unity will be difficult because Abbas will not have much room for maneuvering between Hamas and the US, says a Palestinian official who asked to remain anonymous. "The more flexibility he shows to Hamas, the more difficulties he will have with the outside world and with Israel."
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