Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Abbas to Hamas

PA President Mahmoud Abbas says that Hamas must recognize Israel as a prerequisite to it gaining international legitimacy and creating a unified government with Fatah.
Abbas said he hopes the upcoming round of reconciliation talks would lead Hamas to accept deals with Israel agreed to by previous Palestinian administrations even if they are not in line with the group's own political platform.

"When governments come, they respect and honor the obligations of a previous government," he said, prior to beginning of new talks scheduled for Wednesday. "That's what we ask."

Past efforts have failed to form a unity government between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the more moderate Fatah movement led by Abbas, which controls the West Bank. Hamas, meanwhile, needs Fatah's international legitimacy to get foreign aid to rebuild Gaza, which was devastated in Israel's recent 22-day offensive.

Abbas said Tuesday that one reason previous unity governments failed was because key powers, including Israel and the United States, refused to accept a coalition that included Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

"This [new unity] government must have the acceptance and recognition of all parties," said Abbas, appearing at a brief news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

I'm skeptical that Abbas can pull this off, but it was a bold move nonetheless. If Abbas does manage to get Hamas to accede to his demands, it will be absolutely essential that Israel reciprocate. Getting Hamas to recognize past agreements with Israel and accept the legitimacy of the state would be a huge step forward, and Abbas needs to be backed up for taking this step.

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