Fatah hails Hamas’ unity call
Hamas chief Mashaal and PM Haniyeh ride in a car, waving to the crowd as they leave a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas in Gaza. REUTERS photoThe Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas yesterday welcomed comments from rival Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal on the need for renewed efforts for reconciliation.
Azzam al-Ahmed, the head of Fatah’s central committee and its point man for reconciliation talks, told Agence France-Presse that the party “strongly welcomes the speech of Khaled Mashaal, which was very positive on the issue of the Palestinian division.”
Mashaal, chief-in-exile of Hamas’s politburo, arrived in Gaza on his first-ever visit Dec. 7, addressing enormous crowds a day later to celebrate the movement’s 25th anniversary.
His speech, which warned that Palestinians would never “cede an inch or any part” of historic Palestine, also called for Palestinian unity. “We are a single authority, a single reference, and our reference is the PLO, which we want united.” He was referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Abbas, which represents the Palestinians in negotiations.Al-Ahmed said Mashaal’s speech was “positive” on the key issues facing reconciliation efforts. “The speech was positive on the issues of one president for the Palestinian people, and one authority and one law. We do not disagree with him at all on these issues, which are the focus of the reconciliation agreement that was signed by Fatah and Hamas and the other factions to end the division,” he said.
Hamas does not belong to the PLO, but Mashaal said a year ago that his movement was “on the path to joining” it.
His comments then came as Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to pave the way to parliamentary and presidential elections within a year. But its implementation stalled as the two sides struggled to agree on the composition of an interim consensus government.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said Israel must negotiate with the only Palestinian alternative, Mahmoud Abbas, who is a relatively moderate leader opposed to terrorism and who has chosen the path of negotiations, instead of Mashaal, the Jerusalem Post reported. Abbas yesterday told Arab League diplomats that the two groups wanted to overcome their differences.
“The reconciliation is dear to us and to the unity of our people, especially in the present time, when we are talking about a Palestinian state and about getting something new,” he said, but stressed talks with Israel.
“If we put aside the negotiating table, the alternative would be war,” Abbas told envoys at a meeting in Doha. “Are we ready for war? I say no.”
Meanwhile, Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz said Israel should have taken advantage of Mashaal’s first visit to the Gaza Strip to kill him.
“We should have taken advantage of the occasion to slice the head off the serpent. Mashaal deserves to die,” Mofaz, also a former defense minister, said in a statement Dec. 8. “I would recommend that he pack his bags as quickly as possible and get out of Gaza,” he added.
“If Israel continues to weaken Abbas and does not deal firmly with Hamas, we will soon see Mashaal in Judaea and Samaria,” Mofaz said, referring to the occupied West Bank.