Monday, March 9, 2009

With their future at stake, Palestinians try to settle differences

At least Palestinian Authority officials realize how vital it is that they resolve their differences with their Hamas counterparts in Gaza, and how how far apart they are politically. An unnamed official told the Reuters international news service on Monday that "the gap is huge." That doesn't sound promising, coming as it does on the eve of unification negotiation between from the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Cairo. But the PA understands, even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad doesn't, that Palestinians must be able to present a unified negotiating position to the Israelis, and one that will be respected by the factions, if they have any hope of reaching a regional territorial compromise with Israel. The talks are expected to last 10 days, and are expected to focus on formation of a unity government and the inclusion of Hamas in the PA, which governs the West Bank. Hamas militants defeated PA forces in 2007 to take control of the densely populated Gaza Strip but has been isolated by the West because of its refusal of recognize Israel or abide by previously negotiated peace agreements, Reuters said. "We must reach an agreement to form a government of reconciliation that will abide by the obligations of the PLO," PA President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters yesterday, Reuters said. Agreement by Hamas also could speed international aid to Gaza, where a recent 22-day offensive by Israel, aimed at eliminating daily rocket fire from militants, left more than 1,000 dead and thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed. "The sooner (a unity) government is formed, the faster the reconstruction will be realized," Abbas told Reuters. But Hamas official Ayman Taha said: "Gaza reconstruction is important but we are not required in return to cede our principles or recognize Israel, because that will never happen." And so it goes in the Middle East.

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