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Fatah-Hamas Unity Ceremony Begins on Left Foot

The Fatah and Hamas unity ceremony showed cracks before it began. It was delayed because of a dispute over where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal sits.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 5/4/2011, 1:08 PM / Last Update: 5/4/2011, 1:16 PM

The ballyhooed unity ceremony between Fatah and Hamas showed cracks before it began Wednesday when it was delayed because of a dispute over where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was to sit. He wanted to sit on the main podium and reportedly agreed to surrender his demand.

Another argument involved whether Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was to speak in the name of all Arabs, including those in Gaza, ruled by Hamas.

The disputes, and perhaps the fear that fhe ceremony would be disrupted by further disagreements, resulted in the last-minute cancellation of plans to broadcast the event live. It began 90 minutes late, and it still is not clear if Abbas will relent and let Mashaal deliver a speech.

Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement, and Mashaal, were in Cairo on Wednesday to endorse the agreement four years after Hamas and Fatah’s terrorist militias fought a bloody civil war in Gaza that ended with Hamas taking power in the region.

Mashaal and Abbas have not met since then, and the argument over seating arrangements served as evidence of more substantial problems that await them.  

Foreign media reported that Hamas and Fatah dignitaries will sign the agreement -- but that Abbas and Mashaal will avoid putting their names on the document.

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. Fatah leaders asserted Wednesday morning they will prevent all terrorist attacks on Israel but did not explain how they can prevent rocket fire from 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.