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      Fatah-Hamas Rivalry Threatens Israel-PA Negotiations

      New round of PA unity talks begins in Cairo. Abbas fears that negotiations may fail. Egypt says ongoing dispute threatens PA-Israel negotiations.
      By Yehudah Lev Kay
      First Publish: 5/17/2009, 11:43 AM

      Israel News Photo

      Fatah and Hamas met for a fifth round of unity discussions in Cario on Sunday, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is prepared for the possibility that they won’t succeed.

      Abbas warned Hamas last week that if the talks fail, he will move ahead with forming a new PA government in Judea and Samaria that won’t include the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group.

      In addition, Abbas traveled to Damascus last Thursday, home to Hamas’ leader Khaled Mashaal. According to Sunday’s A-sharq Al-awast newspaper, Abbas’ visit included a warning to Mashaal that if his group doesn’t come to an agreement with Fatah, he may have to leave Syria for Iran.

      Israel says that negotiating with the PA is hindered by the lack of unity between Fatah and Hamas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to make this point to U.S. President Barack Obama in their discussions on the Israel-PA negotiations on Monday in Washington.

      Egypt, who has hosted the unity talks since Hamas and Fatah formally broke ranks in 2007, fears the negotiations are not bearing fruit and has started to put pressure on the two sides. “By the beginning of July, an agreement must be signed,” Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman said.

      Hamas insists that the negotiations are serious and ongoing. “We are discussing with Fatah all issues besides recognizing the Zionist entity,” a Gaza based spokesperson said.

      The head of the Fatah delegation, Azzam Al-Ahmad, claimed there were three main issues at stake, “the election system, security during the transitional period in Gaza, and a joint security force.”

      He said he was surprised at Suleiman’s warning, but explained that the Egyptian official insisted that PA unity was crucial admitting that “no progress could be achieved in the [Israeli-PA] peace process before ending the rivalry” between Fatah and Hamas.