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Secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas announced a unity pact Wednesday at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters in Cairo. The pact ended a four-year feud between the two parties.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the pact saying it was “a mortal blow to peace, and a great victory for terrorism”. Haaretz reports:
…”When Abu Mazen (Abbas) embraces Hamas – an organisation committed to our destruction – it is a tremendous setback for peace and an advance for terror,” Netanyahu said.
Dismissing the possibility that the deal between the factions might bring out a more moderate Hamas and open up opportunities for a broader peace deal, Netanyahu said: “If it walks, shoots and quacks like a terrorist organisation, it is a terrorist organisation….[Hamas] effectively has Al-Qaeda among them. You can wrap it up and dress it in whatever you want.., but they are a terrorist organisation.”
Members of Israeli nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu are already pressuring Netanyahu’s administration to cut ties with the joint Palestinian government. Ynetnews reports:
“You cannot expect the State of Israel to transfer money to Hamas and in effect fund operations against its own citizens,” a statement from the party says.
“Those who declare bin Laden a freedom fighter and a holy Muslim, as Haniyeh has done, and those who do not allow the Red Cross access to kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, cannot be partners for negotiations, neither directly nor indirectly.”
Not everyone in Israel agrees, however. Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin didn’t seem all that concerned by the pact and saw it as a ‘tactical’ move. Haaretz reports:
Diskin attributed Hamas’ change of heart to concern in the wake of developments in the region – particularly the potential collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The leaders of Hanas are trapped between their support of Assad and calls by Sunni clerics to overthrow the regime, Diskin clarified, adding that the Islamist movement is keen on improving its relations with Egypt and its new government.
The Fatah-Hamas deal is rife with clauses that may be difficult to implement, Diskin said, “In the years to come I expect to see a real reconciliation on the ground. For this to happen, there must be joint security mechanisms: Hamas representation in the West Bank, and Fatah representation in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
There may be some truth to Diskin’s statements. The move has come at the right time for Western-backed Abbas, who can now approach the U.N., as the leader of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and ask it to officially recognise the state of Palestine. Netanyahu hopes the alliance will discourage the international community from declaring an independent Palestinian state and ease pressure on Israel to sign a peace-agreement with Palestine.