Rival Palestinian Factions Meet, Again

With Israel-Palestinian peace talks still in limbo, representatives of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah political factions met yet again in Egypt on Wednesday as part of an effort to end the almost five year split in the Palestinian government. The factions had originally agreed in 2011 to a reconciliation deal that would have held elections this month. Fatah is part of the peace process with Israel, while Hamas is not.

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that the leader of the Fatah dialogue team, Azzam al-Ahmad, met with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and Egyptian officials to discuss Palestinian reconciliation. Specifically, the talks centered around forming a unity government.

Fatah—headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—and Hamas have been officially divided since 2007 when Hamas forced Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup. Since then Hamas has led Gaza, while Fatah has been based in the West Bank. The sides have discussed reconciling for years, but have yet to fully implement any of their agreements.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence, two key demands made by the Mideast Quartet—the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

On Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner addressed Hamas’ involvement in the peace process. In comments released by the State Department, he said, “They have to renounce violence; they have to renounce terrorism; they have to recognize Israel; and they have to live up to previous agreements. When they’re ready to do that and willing to do that, then they’ll have a role in the process.”

In addition to the meeting between Hamas and Fatah, Ma’an reported that al-Ahmad met on Fatah’s behalf with Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah in an unplanned meeting on Palestinian unity. Islamic Jihad has been behind much of the last year’s violence against Israel and appears to be a growing figure in Palestinian affairs.

(By Staff, www.themideastupdate.com, May 3, 2012)