BY KHALED ABU TOAMEH, JPOST–
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation effort is an entirely Palestinian affair and no one has the right to intervene in it, a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah said on Saturday.
The official, who was responding to reports about Israeli and American opposition to efforts to achieve reconciliation between the two rival parties, said that neither the US nor Israel had the right “to meddle in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.”
He also denied that the US administration had threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians because of the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is scheduled to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, where the central topic of discussion is expected to be Washington’s opposition to a Palestinian unity government unless Hamas first forswear terrorism, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Burns is expected to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday. One Israeli government source said that if the Palestinians go through with the reconciliation deal, they will “be facing problems not only from Israel.”
He declined to elaborate.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah officials denied that they have agreed to move the headquarters of the next Palestinian government from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. Senior Hamas representative Ahmed Yusef had announced that his movement and Fatah had agreed that the headquarters of the next government would be based in Gaza.
The PA official in Ramallah said Abbas, who is expected to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Cairo later this week, was determined to end the dispute between Fatah and Hamas.
“The overwhelming majority of Palestinians want unity,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.
“President Abbas can’t go against the wishes of the people.”
On the eve of the Abbas- Mashaal summit, sources close to Hamas and Fatah said the two sides had agreed that current Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would not head a new unity government.
Hamas’s fierce opposition to Fayyad’s nomination has prevented the implementation of the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation accord that was announced last May.
Until recently, Abbas and Fatah had rejected the Hamas stance, insisting that Fayyad remain in his job after the formation of a unity government.
Last week, Fayyad hinted that he would be prepared to step down to facilitate the implementation of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.
Over the weekend, some Fatah representatives in Ramallah said it was possible that Hamas would agree to having Fayyad serve as finance minister in the proposed unity government.
In a post on his Facebook account, Fayyad expressed discontent with the controversy over his future role in any government.
“They are talking about me as if I had been imposed on the Palestinian people,” Fayyad wrote. “Frankly speaking, such talk is harmful to the Palestinians, the various factions and me personally. I don’t want to be an obstacle hindering anything.”
Yusef, from Hamas, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that Hamas and Fatah had reached agreement on a political platform that envisaged the establishment of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital.
Yusef, a former political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, claimed that in the past Abbas insisted on Fayyad because he was worried that removing him would disrupt his plan to apply for Palestinian membership in the UN.
Amin Maqboul, a Fatah representative in the West Bank, denied that the new government would be moved to the Gaza Strip. He said that this was one of the issues that would be discussed between Abbas and Mashaal Another top Hamas official, Salah Bardaweel, also denied that the two parties had reached agreement on moving the government headquarters to the Gaza Strip.
In addition, he denied that Hamas and Fatah have reached agreement on the identity of the prime minister who would head a new unity government consisting of independent figures.
Bardaweel warned that failure of the Abbas-Mashaal summit would have “negative consequences” for the Palestinians, but did not elaborate.
He added that despite the optimism surrounding the Abbas-Mashaal summit, Hamas was concerned about the continued crackdown on its supporters in the West Bank by Abbas’s security forces.
In contrast, Nabil Sha’ath, a member of the Fatah central committee, voiced optimism over the prospects of ending the dispute with Hamas.
He said that recent changes in the Arab countries, the PA’s efforts in the international arena to achieve recognition of a Palestinian state, and the prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Hamas, had all created a “positive” atmosphere for Palestinian unity.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.