Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Palestinians Sign Unity Agreement Over Israeli Objections

Netanyahu calls on Abbas to cancel Hamas deal

05/03/2011 17:12

'I call on Abu Mazen to choose the way of peace with Israel,' PM says following a meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to step away from a unity deal with the Islamist group Hamas a day before it was due to be officially signed in a ceremony in Cairo on Wednesday. However, Al Jazeera announced on Tuesday that the deal itself had already been inked, and the scheduled Egyptian event would merely be ceremonial.

"We signed the deal despite several reservations. But we insisted on working for the higher national interest," Palestine People's Party member Walid al-Awad was quoted as saying.

Nevertheless, following a meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Netanyahu released a statement imploring the Fatah head to reconsider. "I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to cancel the agreement with Hamas immediately and to choose the way of peace with Israel," Netanyahu said.

Israel has said the surprise deal announced last week, which is meant to reconcile the two rival Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah, will sabotage peace efforts. Most recently, it has pointed to Hamas's condemnation of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by US forces as reason for concern.

"The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas deals a tough blow to the peace process. How can peace be reached with a government in which half of it calls to destroy Israel and even praises mass-murderer Osama bin Laden?" Netanyahu said.

Palestinian leaders have defended the unity agreement, saying reconciliation with Hamas reflects a deep-seated public desire to end internal differences.

Earlier Tuesday, Hamas officials were quoted as saying that the Islamist group would honor an unofficial truce with Israel after signing the unity deal with Fatah.

The anonymous comments came as an Egyptian paper reported that the two rival Palestinian factions will maintain a Gaza truce with Israel following the scheduled signing of the deal. The Al-Ahram report quoted Palestinian sources.

Also Tuesday, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said the unity deal was the direct result of the uprising in Egypt and the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

On Sunday, Mashaal's deputy Musa Abu Marzouk was quoted as saying that Hamas would not recognize Israel’s right to exist, despite the agreement to form a Palestinian unity government.

“Hamas has a principled position regarding this issue,” Marzouk said. “We won’t recognize the Zionist entity. Our rights are still usurped and it’s illogical for us to recognize the Zionist entity because that would be at the expense of our stolen lands and our people in the refugee camps.”

Marzouk said that Hamas did not see any connection between recognizing Israel’s right to exist and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“Most of the Arab countries don’t recognize Israel, and yet they continue to deal with the international community,” he said. “And many European countries did not recognize Israel until recently. Therefore the international community should not look into this issue.”

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report

‘Israel’s financial piracy targeting Palestinian unity’

By staff & agencies
Tehran Times

BEIT-UL-MOQADDAS - Israel said on Sunday it has suspended tax transfers to the Palestinians in response to Mahmoud Abbas's agreement to forge an alliance with the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

According to Reuters, a senior Palestinian official in the occupied West Bank said Israel had no right to withhold Palestinian funds.

Asked about Israel's decision, Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, said, “Israel has started a war even before the formation of the unity government.”

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he had suspended a routine handover of 300 million shekels ($88 million) in customs and other levies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians under interim peace deals.

Israel had threatened sanctions last week in response to Acting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's announcement of a unity deal with Hamas that envisages the formation of an interim government and elections later this year.

According to Xinhua, the Palestinian leadership censured Israel's decision to halt tax transfers. “This is clear financial piracy,” said Erekat, who is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee and the former chief Palestinian negotiator.

The accord with Hamas is an internal Palestinian matter, and “the Israeli decision is financial piracy that reflects Israel's dangerous intentions,” Erekat said.

He went on to say that Israel’s hasty response to the effort to form a Palestinian unity government provided evidence that “the Palestinian split served Israel's high interests.”

The Palestinian unity government will be a government of technocrats and will prepare for elections within a year, Erekat explained.

He also warned about the efforts to isolate the new government in the international arena.

Meanwhile, Acting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the Israeli decision will not force the Palestinians to stop efforts to unite and reconcile.

Leaders of the two former rival Palestinian groups are expected to sign the accord in Cairo on Wednesday.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd that the Palestinian deal “was a step in the wrong direction.”

“Today, with the proposed unity government, it is not only that they refuse to confront people who call for the destruction of Israel, (but that) they have decided to embrace them,” Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli government administers tax and customs duty payments on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

The U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were revived in September 2010 but quickly fizzled after Netanyahu refused to extend a partial moratorium on the construction of settlements in the West Bank, territory Palestinians want as part of a future state.

Abbas has said he would return to negotiations only if construction in settlements in the West Bank and East Beit-ul-Moqaddas (Jerusalem), areas Israel captured in a 1967 war, was halted. Netanyahu has said that is an unacceptable precondition for talks.

The tax transfer mechanism provides Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, with $1 billion to $1.4 billion annually -- two-thirds of its budget.

“If the Palestinians can prove to us… that there is not a joint fund between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, I believe that we will reconsider the matter,” the Israeli finance minister said.

“We ask the entire world not to fund Hamas, so we must not do so, even indirectly,” he added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom voiced concern at Egypt's decision to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip.

“It's a worrying development… The reopening of the Rafah crossing could allow the passage of arms and terrorists and we must prepare for important changes both in Egypt and at the regional level,” AFP quoted Shalom as saying on Israel's public radio on Sunday.

On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi announced plans to permanently open the previously blocked Rafah crossing within 10 days.

Al-Arabi said that the decision was made to ease the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and alleviate the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Over 1.5 million people in the coastal strip have been living under an Israeli siege since June 2007.

Text of the Agreement between Fatah and Hamas

3 May 2011

Translated by Al Mubadara, the Palestinian National Initiative, this document is currently in the process of being signed by all of Palestine’s factions and parties.

Under the auspices of Egypt, delegations from the Fatah and Hamas movements met in Cairo on April 27, 2011 to discuss the issues concerning ending the political division and the achievement of national unity. On top of the issues were some reservations related to the Palestinian National Unity Accord made in 2009.

Both political parties mutually agreed that the basis of understanding made during the meeting are committing to both parties in the implementation of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement. The basis of understanding agreed upon by Fatah and Hamas are as follows:

1. Elections
A. Election Committee:

Both Fatah and Hamas agree to identify the names of the members of the Central Election Commission in agreement with the Palestinian factions. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President who will issue a decree of the reformation of the committee.

B. Electoral Court:

Both Fatah and Hamas agree on the nomination of no more than twelve judges to be members of the Electoral Court. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President in order to take the necessary legal actions to form the Electoral Court in agreement with the Palestinian factions.

C. Timing of Elections:

The Legislative, Presidential, and the Palestinian National Council elections will be conducted at the same time exactly one year after the signing of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement.

2. Palestine Liberation Organization
The political parties of both Fatah and Hamas agree that the tasks and decisions of the provisional interim leadership cannot be hindered or obstructed, but in a manner that is not conflicting with the authorities of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

3. Security
It was emphasized that the formation of the Higher Security Committee which will be formed by a decree of the Palestinian President and will consist of professional officers in consensus. 4.Government

A. Formation of the Government:

Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.

B. Functions of the Government:

1. Preparation of necessary condition for the conduction of Presidential, Legislative and the Palestinian National Council elections.
2. Supervising and addressing the prevalent issues regarding the internal Palestinian reconciliation resulting from the state of division. 3. Follow-up of the reconstruction operations in the Gaza Strip and the efforts to end the siege and blockade that is imposed on it. 4. Continuation of the implementation of the provisions of the Palestinian National Accord. 5. To resolve the civil and administrative problems that resulted from the division. 6. Unification of the Palestinian National Authority institutions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. 7. To fix the status of the associations, Non-Governmental Organizations and charities. 5. Legislative Council:

Both Fatah and Hamas agree to reactivate the Palestinian Legislative Council in accordance to the Basic Law.

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