Thursday, April 28, 2011

Israel rejects Palestinian unity deal


the two rival Palestinian factions,
Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah and the Hamas
rulers of the Gaza Strip.
violence, as Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: Cairo has seen its share of unrest in recent times, but the Egyptian capital played host overnight to an historic reconciliation deal between the rival Palestinian factions.

Hamas controls the Gaza strip. Its representative at the talks was Moussa Abu Marzouk.

MOUSSA ABU MARZOUK (translated): Today we are celebrating this historical occasion for all our people in the occupied territories and in occupied territories jails.

This good news has ended a period of Palestinian history that was controlled by division.

SIMON SANTOW: Azzam al Ahmed is the head of the Fatah delegation, the Palestinian faction dominant in the West Bank.

AZZAM AL AHMED (translated): We need to tell the Palestinian youths who are always painting the slogan that says that people want to put the division into an end. The people want to put an end to the occupation. I want to tell these Palestinians that your aim is achieved today.

SIMON SANTOW: The two sides have spent much of the last few years in bitter disagreement over political influence, security and the best way forward to achieve Palestinian statehood.

Mustafa Barghouti from the Palestinian National Initiative told the BBC, even intense divisions can be overcome.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: I think both sides have realised that the alternative is horrible and both sides have realised that if they continue to talk about the old divisions and the old differing problems, they will only continue to lose their popularity with the Palestinian people and they will cause the Palestinians a lot of suffering, more suffering than before. And the new government which will be formed will be formed from independents from both Fatah and Hamas, which means that both sides are also sacrificing something to have unity.

SIMON SANTOW: And, he argues, it neutralises the long held Israeli position that peace is impossible while Palestinians remain divided.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: This internal division has weakened us and I think gaining unity will mean also bringing back democracy to Palestine which by itself is a very powerful instrument to strengthen Palestinians internally as well as to show that a peace that can be made will be lasting because it will be between democracies and not imposed from Israel on the Palestinian side.

SIMON SANTOW: Israel is talking tough in response to the Cairo deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (translated): The Palestinian authority must choose - either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. Peace with both of them is not possible because Hamas wants to destroy Israel and it says so publicly. It fires rockets on our cities. It fires rockets on our children. I think the idea of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian authority and raises questions regarding Hamas controlling Judea and Samaria - the same way they took over the Gaza Strip.

I hope that the Palestinian authority takes the right choice and that it chooses peace with Israel. The choice is theirs.

SIMON SANTOW: His government's spokesman Mark Regev rammed the point home to English speaking audiences across the world.

MARK REGEV: We are concerned that the Palestinian authority made a strategic decision here. I mean they could have chosen the path of reconciliation with Israel, of negotiation and they can choose the path of Hamas, which is the path of rejectionism and violence and conflict and they have chosen apparently, they have chosen the path of violence and Hamas and you can't have them both.

How can you have peace with Israel and have peace with Hamas at the same time. It is impossible.

SIMON SANTOW: Palestinian Liberation Organisation MP, Hanan Ashrawi told Radio National that a sturdy robust democracy for Palestinians will serve the region well.

HANAN ASHRAWI: We need a democracy that is inclusive, that is pluralistic. It is not Israel's business. Hamas is part of the Palestinian society, the Palestinian political system and we need to have democracy that functions and that empowers the Palestinians.

SIMON SANTOW: The United States is treading carefully.

It says Palestinian unity is a welcome development but it warns that Hamas will need to renounce its extremist policies before lasting peace in the region can be made.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Santow reporting.

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