Fatah and Hamas leaders have announced an “agreement in principle” that would lead to a joint Fatah-Hamas led Palestinian Authority, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency. The two groups plan to form a joint transitional government that would operate until elections can be held. In addition, they agreed to a prisoner exchange between them.
The groups began operating in tandem at the helm of the PA in 2006 after Hamas won more legislative seats than Fatah in elections in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. They split again following the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, and have remained separate and hostile ever since, and attempts to reconcile between them have failed.
Hamas politburo chief, Mussa Abu Marzook, said in a press conference in Cairo on Thursday evening that the various factions have reached an agreement to create a transitional government. The Cairo conference of 14 different divisions is an effort to end nearly two years of disunity, mainly between Fatah and Hamas.
Fatah delegation leader, Ahmad Qurei, said, “This government could be formed and approved by all the Palestinian factions, or could be a technocrat government, or another form of government approved by the committees.”
The secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Al-Barghouti, said, “All of the Palestinian factions will together confront any Israeli assault.”
An Arab Liberation Front leader, Wasel Abu Yousef, called for a policy review regarding Arabs living under Israeli rule, construction of a separation barrier, and Jewish towns within Judea and Samaria. “This review should come within a national strategy towards establishing a Palestinian state,” he stated.
The United States, several European nations, and Israel do not conduct direct negotiations with Hamas, as they do not want to acknowledge a terrorist organization. Fatah, however, is not currently regarded as a terrorist organization by any of these governments. Fatah’s reunification with organizations that overtly espouse terrorism methods might cause a political problem for the United States, which has called Fatah “a partner in peace.”
Fatah used to be designated terrorist under Israeli law and was considered terrorist by the United States Department of State and United States Congress until it renounced terrorism in 1988. Israel’s recognition of Fatah, which controls parts of Judea and Samaria, continues despite involvement by the group -- as well as subgroups of Fatah like Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Brigades -- in numerous atrocities against Israel men, women and children since 2000.
One of Tanzim’s leaders, Marwan Barghouti, is currently held prisoner in Israel for murdering civilians. In addition, Tanzim has recruited a number of human bombers, who have killed and maimed Israelis.