Nine months after signing a reconciliation deal, the leaders of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas took their first major step towards forming a unity government. On Monday, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal signed a new agreement, dubbed the Doha Declaration, stating that Abbas will head the interim unity government as prime minister. That new government, which will reportedly be comprised of unaffiliated technocrats and whose members have yet to be announced, will be tasked with preparing for Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.
Qatari Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani with PA President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (R).
The latest agreement was celebrated by many Palestinians, including current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, even though he will have to step down from his position once the interim government is formed and Abbas takes the lead. Fayyad’s counterpart in the Gaza Strip, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, also welcomed the deal although he theoretically will be forced to step down as well.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the news by telling President Abbas he is either with Israel or with Hamas. “You can’t have it both ways,” Netanyahu said, noting that the implementation of the Doha Declaration will mean that Abbas has abandoned “the path of peace” to “join forces with the enemies of peace” — Hamas. Washington was more vague in its approach, simply stating that “questions of Palestinian reconciliation are an internal matter for Palestinians.”
But are they? Considering how much the U.S. has propped-up Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, Abbas’s joining together with Hamas, a terrorist organization that remains committed to Israel’s destruction, is hardly an internal matter. Abbas is thumbing his nose at the Americans and Israelis once again, and the White House has chosen to do nothing about it.