Abed Rabbo says unity deal may ‘fade away’ 15Mar12 March 16, 2012

Ma’an News Agency  -  15 March 2012

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said Thursday that the national unity agreement will “fade away” without public pressure.

Speaking to Ramallah-based Voice of Palestine radio, Abed Rabbo blamed Hamas for the failure to implement a reconciliation agreement signed last May to end years of division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The territories have been governed by rival administrations since 2007 when Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip

Abed-Rabbo’s comments coincided with the first anniversary of mass protests demanding national unity.

On March 15, 2011, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza. Inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, protesters camped out in public squares and held hunger strikes calling for an end to the national division.

Under popular pressure, Fatah-leader and President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to go to Gaza to reconcile with Hamas, and the Gaza rulers welcomed the initiative.

The president did not make the trip, but in late April he met Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal for the first time since 2007 in Cairo and the rival leaders signed a reconciliation agreement brokered by Egypt.

Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a transitional government ahead of elections to take place within the next year.

“We fold forever the dark page of division,” Abbas began an address announcing the deal on May 4. A government of “independent figures” would “soon see the light,” the president added.

His remarks were echoed by Mashaal.

Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh and West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have both pledged their willingness to resign their posts in the last year, but both continue to head rival administrations. The promised unity government has yet to be formed.

In February, Abbas and Mashaal agreed again to form a unity government, but their decision that Abbas should lead the new administration provoked outrage among Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah officials have since continued to trade blame over who is responsible for the delay in forming a joint government.

Abed Rabbo, an advisor to Abbas, insisted Thursday that Hamas was not interested in reconciling with Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“They only want a state in the Gaza Strip to rule by themselves and in their own ways but this will lead to a catastrophe.”

He added: “This is what Israel wants, to separate Gaza from the West Bank.”

Hamas officials say Abbas asked not to form the new government until Israel confirms it will allow elections in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

A senior Hamas leader in Gaza said Wednesday that the party was unlikely to follow through on the reconciliation agreement anytime soon, speculating that the unity deal might be implemented next year.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Ma’an the Islamist movement was unconvinced of Fatah’s assurances particularly given the continued arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank.

Mashaal, who heads Hamas from exile, needs time to persuade party leaders in Gaza to implement the agreement, he said.

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