News / Middle East

Palestinians: Peace Talks Can Continue, Despite Unity Deal

FILE - Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad meet in Gaza for talks aimed at reaching a reconciliation agreement between the two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah on April 22, 2014.
FILE - Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad meet in Gaza for talks aimed at reaching a reconciliation agreement between the two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah on April 22, 2014.
Palestinian leaders are insisting stalled peace talks with Israel can move forward, arguing a unity pact between Fatah and Hamas is no obstacle to the negotiations.

The two Palestinian factions last month agreed to form a power-sharing government, ending a bitter seven-year split that divided leadership between the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by formally ending the U.S.-mediated talks, saying he would not negotiate with a government backed by Hamas, which Israel and the U.S. view as a terrorist group.

Unlike the West Bank-based Fatah, the Gaza-based Hamas Islamist group does not recognize Israel. It is committed to armed resistance against the Jewish state and regularly sends rockets across the border.

But in interviews with VOA, spokespersons and officials from both sides of the Palestinian political establishment agreed that the talks could continue, even with Hamas' presence.

Unity government to 'recognize past agreements'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the unity deal should not necessitate the end of the talks. Last month, he promised a unity government will comply with past agreements, including renouncing violence and recognizing the state of Israel.

Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, which has been holding the talks with Israel.

"It's not Hamas who decides the national agenda. It's the PLO. And the PLO has made this commitment, we have agreed to a two-state solution, to international law, to a negotiated settlement, non-violent resistance, all these things,"

Ashrawi tells VOA a unified Palestinian government would make it easier to create a lasting peace deal that could be enforced in both the West Bank and Gaza, an issue that was seemingly left unaddressed by the now stalled peace talks.

"It's in the interest of peace. It's in the interest of having binding agreements, of having commitments that all the Palestinians agree to rather than part of the Palestinians, and it empowers the Palestinians to implement anything we sign on to," she says.

Israel: unity deal a 'nail in the coffin'

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, disagrees. He tells VOA that by signing the unity agreement with Hamas, Mr. Abbas has "put a nail in the coffin" of the peace process.

"You can't tell the Israeli public that you want peace and reconciliation if you forge an alliance with the most violent enemies of peace. This is a radical, extremist organization that says the Jewish state has no right to exist in any form, that says any Israeli man, woman and child is a legitimate target for a terror attack," he says.

Regev insists until that happens, or unless Mr. Abbas annuls the pact with Hamas, Israel has no choice but to continue saying no to the talks.

"If Hamas were to change its positions, if it were to accept the three Quartet benchmarks - recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism, and accept the UN resolutions - that would be a different ballgame. Unfortunately, Hamas is stuck in this very extreme position," he says.

Hamas: peace talks 'none of our business'

Senior Hamas leaders have in the past said they are open to a two-state solution, if Israel withdraws from Palestinian territory it conquered in 1967. But despite its willingness to join a coalition with Fatah, Hamas has given no recent sign it is open to talks with Israel.

Hamas spokeswoman Israa al-Modallal told VOA that "Hamas will never ever recognize Israel because Israel does not recognize Hamas or the people's rights."

But she says if the PLO, which does not include Hamas, decides to continue the negotiations, that is "none of our business," saying it is not necessary for all members of the government to have the same opinion.

"In one of (Senior Hamas leader Ismail) Haniyeh's speeches, he was very clear that whoever wants to move on with negotiations, that is his business, and whoever wants to believe in resistance and move on with resistance, it's our business. We are not talking about negotiations or resistance. We are only talking about political sharing of the government itself. This is why we have to do this reconciliation. It's all about inside issues," says al-Modallal.

Outcome unclear

It is far from certain that Fatah and Hamas will be able to succeed in forming a government. Attempts to heal the division failed in both 2011 and 2012, and experts warn that both sides have a fundamentally different outlook on relations with Israel. Ashrawi and al-Modallal said talks are advancing, but both warned the process would be difficult.

If the power-sharing attempt does succeed, several U.S. congressman have threatened to cut off crucial American aid to the Palestinian Authority. Since Washington designates Hamas as a terrorist group, they say this is required under U.S. law. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also has expressed opposition to the unity deal.

On Thursday, the U.S. special envoy to the peace talks, Martin Indyk, blamed both sides for the breakdown. He said neither made "the gut-wrenching compromises necessary to achieve peace." But he also held out hope the talks could resume eventually, saying that "In the Middle East, it's never over."

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: US Citizen from: United States of Israel
May 09, 2014 2:44 PM
What a croc!! There are political parties inside Israeli government that do not recognize Palestine, oppose the creation of a Palestinian State, promote the continued stealing of Palestinians homes and land thru military force (violence). Yet somehow Palestinians are expected to continue negotiating with them as they continue approving new settlements in occupied Palestine. The hypocrisy would be hilarious if not for the US endorsing and subsidizing the Israeli behavioir with US taxpayer money. In this case, it's jut disgusting....

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 09, 2014 1:45 PM
I was getting enthusiastic about the whole issue until I read what the Hamas representative had to say. I was going to suggest that peace with Hamas was good, however to give a period of study to find out if truly Hamas wanted and could live in peace side by side with Israel. If Hamas still stands for violence and non-recognition of Israel, then why should Israel want to make peace with the PLO which thinks it's not complete without Hamas? It does not make sense unless it was suicidal.

Whether it is their business or not, Hamas in reconciling with PLO must be seen not only to denounce violence and terrorism, but must show that it has embraced the notion of peace by stopping every firing of rockets at Israel - civilians or others. Otherwise its relations with PLO will only soil and taint it with its paranoia of hate, and Israel will be much more troubled if it goes ahead to drop its guards for a neighbor that wishes to destroy it when the sea, land and air borders have been opened to a floodgate of all sorts of arms. So it is only good for Israel to jump ajar, watch situations from a distance, and make its further decisions based on its observations, while the status quo of restricts remain in place.

by: Anthonybellchambers from: London
May 09, 2014 1:00 PM

"Our two nations are forever bound by our shared history and our shared values, and every American dollar spent on Israel's security is an investment in protecting the many interests that our nations share," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Friday, concluding three days of consultations in Israel.

What absolute codswallop!
Israel does not seek peace rather it prefers the status quo whereby it continues to control the US congress, the White House and the President; the Gaza Strip with its 1.6 million inhabitants, the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley plus its international affiliated lobby cells not only in Washington and Brussels but also in Berlin, London and Paris.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs