Says Unity Government Will Benefit All Palestinian Factions
Gaza City — As the nine-month deadline for reaching a US-backed “framework agreement” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock comes and goes, the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, says it will never recognize Israel. The announcement came several days after Hamas announced a unity government with the more moderate Fatah movement that runs the West Bank.
"Hamas has never recognized and will never recognize Israel, as long as Hamas lives,” Ismail Alashqar, a Hamas member of parliament told The Media Line. “If Hamas recognizes Israel, then it will no longer remain Hamas. Recognizing Israel is a religious and national crime.”
Alashqar’s warning seems to contradict statements by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that he will continue to be in charge of the negotiations with Israel and there is no reason that talks cannot continue. He said that if a peace agreement is reached, it will be put to a referendum in both the West Bank and Gaza. At the time of the unity announcement, the two sides were making progress on a deal to extend the negotiations until the end of the year.
After the unity deal was signed last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Hamas “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.” Israel announced a series of sanctions on the Palestinan Authority including a suspension of the peace talks. Abbas, in turn, responded by pressing ahead with efforts to join dozens of United Nations conventions, which Israel has long opposed. US special envoy Martin Indyk left the region, and the clock on the nine-month deadline ran out.
There are still a lot of unknowns about the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement. Three previous similar deals were never implemented. It is not clear if the Hamas security forces will become subservient to those in the West Bank. Abbas’s security force has extensive security cooperation with Israel, including arresting Palestinians who have carried out attacks on Israelis.
Alashqar said the thousands of Hamas policemen and other security forces would never agree to cooperate with Israel.
“Fatah is not Hamas and Hamas is not Fatah though, we have a common ground, which is Palestine,” he said. “In Cairo, in May 2011, we stipulated that any security coordination with Israel is rejected and that Palestinians are still in the state of national liberation.”
Alashqar acknowledged the differences between his party and Abbas's Fatah party, yet said that Hamas has decided to go ahead with the reconciliation, in order to preserve Palestinian national rights.
"Following several rounds of talks in different parts of the region, now it has come to the moment of truth for both us and Fatah,” he said. “I can admit that there are many challenges ahead. Among them are the American threats to cut off financial aid. Also Israel is going to withhold tax revenues, which belongs to the Palestinian Authority", the Hamas leader predicted.
Israel collects some $100 million per month in customs and tax revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Israel has several times in the past withheld these revenues to protest Palestinian actions.
The unity agreement calls for a government of “technocrats” headed by Abbas to be formed within five weeks, which will pave the way for Palestinian elections to be held within six months. In 2006, in the previous election, Hamas emerged victorious.
"We all now pay a heavy price due to the heated division for the past years. We are ready to implement what has been previously agreed upon in Arab capitals. We need to reconstruct the Palestine Liberation Organization; we all need a common political platform, away from any party's own agenda,” Al-Ashqar insisted.
Other Hamas officials said the Hamas government in Gaza would resign, once a new national unity government is formed.
"If a unity elected government is formed and a unified national political platform is agreed on, then this government will either decide to negotiate with Israel or continue resistance to the Israeli occupation,” Alghosain said.
Palestinian analysts in Gaza said they believe the unity government will be good for both Fatah and Hamas, which are both trying to improve daily life for their people.
"Mahmoud Abbas came to the conclusion that talks with Israel became absurd. Hamas also has been facing pressure. I think this step is a good one and we can be cautiously optimistic about its success,” As'ad Abu Shharekh, a political analyst in Gaza, told the Media Line.