Israel will continue to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) even if its leading faction Fatah completes a unity deal with Hamas, which Israel has publicly opposed, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers that while he will not recognize the reconciliation process, he also will not derail it because the resumption of PA control will improve humanitarian conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip, which is in Israel's interest, Haaretz reported quoting sources from the meeting. He also said that the return of PA control over Gaza would not mean resumption of long-suspended Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Netanyahu said last week that Israel is opposed to any deal involving Hamas unless the group disarms and recognizes Israel, requests which have also been made by the U.S. Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement Oct. 12 on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with president Mahmud Abbas calling it a final accord. The move came after two days of negotiations in the Egyptian capital on the governing of the Gaza Strip as part of the most serious effort to date to end the 10-year rift between the rival Palestinian groups.
Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority will regain full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt's intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks. The two factions agreed to allow the unity government to assume responsibility for all of Gaza's border crossings no later than Nov. 1. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept the 2006 legislative elections that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel, and the international community. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas's Fatah has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas seeks both territories, along with East Jerusalem, for a Palestinian state, and the division is a major obstacle to any possible peace deal. Israel captured all three areas in the 1967 Six-Days War, although it withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Previous agreements for a unity government signed between Hamas and Fatah have failed to yield any concrete breakthroughs. Recent weeks, however, have seen mounting hope that an ongoing Egypt-sponsored reconciliation process will be more successful. Negotiations are now expected to be held on forming a unity government, with the various Palestinian political movements invited to another meeting in Cairo on Nov. 21.
After distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood by changing its administrative cadre, Hamas unveiled a new political charter in May amid structural changes. In its new program, Hamas redefines itself as a national liberation group, distancing it from its parent movement, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by neighboring Egypt. Hamas recently moved to secure its position in the region by making a significant change to its administrative cadre while accepting collaborative efforts with Egypt to fight the presence of Daesh on the Sinai Peninsula.
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