Is­raeli delegation re­port­edly in Cairo as Fatah, Ha­mas hold unity talks

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • Jerusalem Post Staff

An Is­raeli delegation ar­rived in a pri­vate plane at Cairo’s in­ter­na­tional air­port Tues­day to meet with Egyp­tian of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to a Pales­tinian news agency that cited an Egyp­tian se­cu­rity source.

The re­ports of the meet­ing, which lasted sev­eral hours, came as high-level Ha­mas and Fatah del­e­ga­tions con­ducted a round of talks in Cairo in an ef­fort to re­store the ter­ri­to­rial unity of the West Bank and

Gaza Strip.

Since Ha­mas forcibly ousted the Fatah-con­trolled Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity from Gaza in 2007, the ri­val par­ties have essen­tially es­tab­lished sep­a­rate regimes: a Ha­mas-con­trolled gov­ern­ment in Gaza and a Fatah-led gov­ern­ment in the West Bank.

About three weeks ago, how­ever, Ha­mas an­nounced its readi­ness to hand re­spon­si­bil­ity for Gaza over to the PA.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawas­meh said early Tues­day morn­ing that the talks, which are be­ing held un­der the aus­pices of the Egyp­tian In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­torate, would fo­cus on en­abling the PA to op­er­ate in Gaza.

“We want to ex­tend the rule of law to Gaza as [has been done] in the West Bank,” Qawas­meh said in a state­ment.

Ha­mas Polit­buro mem­ber Iz­zat al-Rishq, who is part of his party’s delegation in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal, wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count Tues­day morn­ing that Ha­mas “is pur­su­ing, with de­sire and de­ter­mi­na­tion, a real na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with our broth­ers and part­ners in the home­land.”

While Ha­mas and Fatah have said they want to re­unite the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries, they have to over­come a num­ber of ob­sta­cles to do so.

Over the past week, the par­ties have ex­pressed di­ver­gent views about the fu­ture of Gaza’s se­cu­rity.

PA Pres­i­dent and Fatah chair­man Mah­moud Ab­bas told Egyp­tian tele­vi­sion last week that he would not ac­cept a sce­nario in which Ha­mas’s armed wing, Iz­zadin Kas­sam, kept con­trol of its weapons.

Mean­while, Ha­mas Polit­buro chief Is­mail Haniyeh told Egyp­tian tele­vi­sion a day later that while his party would not cede con­trol of its weapons, it would be pre­pared to make joint de­ci­sions with Fatah about when and how to use them.

In pre­vi­ous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at­tempts, Ha­mas and Fatah failed to reach agree­ments on Gaza’s se­cu­rity ar­range­ments.

An­other ma­jor chal­lenge to restor­ing the unity of the West Bank and Gaza is the is­sue of Ha­mas-ap­pointed em­ploy­ees in the Gaza Strip.

Since tak­ing over Gaza in 2007, Ha­mas has ap­pointed 40,000 em­ploy­ees to work in Gaza’s min­istries. The PA does not rec­og­nize the le­git­i­macy of the Ha­mas-ap­pointed work­ers and has tens of thou­sands of its own em­ploy­ees in the Strip who have not worked for the past 10 years.

While Ha­mas wants its 40,000 em­ploy­ees added to the PA pay­roll, the PA has said in pre­vi­ous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at­tempts it can­not af­ford to ab­sorb most of them and would like its em­ploy­ees in Gaza to go back to work.

The PA gov­ern­ment cab­i­net said on Tues­day that, if Ha­mas and Fatah achieve an agree­ment in Cairo, it is pre­pared to take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for Gaza, the of­fi­cial PA news site Wafa re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to Qawas­meh, the talks in Cairo are slated to last for three days, but could be ex­tended de­pend­ing on the progress made. •

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