As Fatah and Hamas approach the signing ceremony in Cairo of their recently announced unity deal, some serious disagreements over control of security forces and other key issues have emerged in the past two days.
The unity agreement calls for new elections next year and the integration of Hamas’ army into the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority army and security forces.
However, according to a report on Tuesday in the Associated Press, Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has said that Hamas would not relinquish control of its security forces and would maintain its rule over Gaza even after the unity accord takes effect. His statements ran counter to the Fatah view that there would be a single authority with control of all the weapons in both the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria and in Gaza.
“The resistance weapons will not be touched, but we will manage together how to act,” Haniyeh said regarding the issue of security forces, without explaining how. He gave no indication that Hamas might give up its armed struggle against Israel or approve peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Meanwhile, Fatah’s Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad insisted that “The most important thing here is the struggle of our people should be nonviolent. We need to finalize that policy and make it official.”
Another disagreement, said the report, involves Fayyad himself. While Fatah’s chief negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmed, told a news conference in Cairo that the next prime minister would be selected through a consensus of all factions, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Arabic Al-Hayyat newspaper that the next premier should come from Gaza. These remarks signaled that Hamas does not want Fayyad to stay in office.
Hamas’ demand was clarified by Yousef Rizka, a member of the Hamas government, who was quoted by the Chinese Xinhua news agency that having the prime minister originate in Gaza “will create sort of reasonable geographic balance” since the president and the speaker of the parliament are based in the Judea and Samaria.
Rizka also said that if the Prime Minister is from Gaza, he will be able to travel since he will not have to pass through Israeli checkpoints.
Fatah official Jamal Muhissen responded to the comments and was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the nomination of the prime minister is subjected to his “qualifications and capabilities,” and that it makes no difference if he comes from Gaza or from Judea and Samaria, since “the considerations of the general interest matter,” as he put it.
The unity agreement has come under criticism from Israeli officials, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said last week that he believes Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria in the Palestinian Authority elections planned for next year as part of the unity agreement. Lieberman called the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas “the crossing of a red line” and warned that one of its results will be that hundreds of Hamas terrorists will go free from Fatah-PA jails, and roam in Judea and Samaria.
Lieberman called upon the international community to hold on steadfastly to the conditions it has set for recognition of “Palestinian” governments: the abandoning of terror, the recognition of Israel and the honoring of previous agreements.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on the eve of an official visit to France and Britain, also called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to reverse the unity course. During his visit in Europe, Netanyahu will explain to his hosts that peace cannot be made with a unity government that includes a party calling for the destruction of Israel, a formal policy of Hamas.
Mideast expert Professor Efraim Inbar, Director of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, told IsraelNationalNews last week that the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement is “a deal that makes Hamas stronger, which of course is bad for Israel.”