Fatah-Hamas Deal Threatens Peace Process

Jerusalem, Nov. 20 – The draft agreement by Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government based in Gaza in advance of proposed elections means there is no way Palestinians will restart peace talks, an Israeli expert said Sunday.

“The whole idea of this (Palestinian) unity government is to prepare elections – they’ll be six months away. Even in a healthy political climate you don’t negotiate when you’re expecting elections,” said Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS) at Tel Aviv University.

Alpher told The Israel Project that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “is going for a unity government precisely because he has no hopes of a peace process. He’s been stymied at the U.N. as well.”

Despite repeated offers by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks immediately, Alpher said the Palestinians upped that ante and “want the Israelis to agree to the ’67 lines and a capital in East Jerusalem as well, not just a total construction freeze (in the West Bank).”

Media reports quoted a senior Hamas official saying the new unity government expected to be formed with Fatah would be run from Gaza and the new prime minister would be from Gaza. Leaders of Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, are expected to meet with Abbas in Cairo on Wednesday to name the new prime minister and firm up plans for Palestinian elections in May, 2012.

A major Hamas demand for the unity government is for the current premier, Salam Fayyad, to step down. Seen as a moderate who supports the peace process, Fayyad is popular both in the Western countries and in the West Bank, where the economy has boomed under his administration. Hamas rejects Fayyad as a tool of Western governments and because of his insistence on transparent economic methods.

Fatah, headed by Abbas, and Hamas, led in Gaza by Ismail Haniyeh, have been in conflict since Hamas defeated Fatah in 2006 elections. The elections were followed by a bloody military coup in which the Iran-backed Hamas seized power in Gaza, reportedly killing hundreds of Fatah officials.

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