In their first conversation since the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact was announced this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke on the phone Friday with Gaza-based Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who stressed the importance of beginning immediately to implement the fledgling agreement between the rival Palestinian factions.
According to the Maan News Agency, Haniyeh also urged Abbas to not succumb to external pressures placed on him to back out of the deal.
“Haniyeh called for efforts to create a political and economic safety net that would strengthen trust between the West Bank and Gaza,” reported Maan.
Meanwhile, in Ramallah, the Palestinian prime minister in the West Bank, Rami Hamdallah, tendered his resignation to Abbas on Friday evening, in another move that clears the path for a unity government. It was not immediately clear whether Abbas had accepted the resignation.
In Washington, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Abbas had spoken to Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, and that he reassured the top US diplomat that a Palestinian unity government would recognize Israel.
According to Psaki, the PA president told Kerry that the unity government would be his government and represent his policies. He is said to have promised Kerry that along with recognition of Israel, the future government would abide by past agreements and renounce violence.
“It’s a positive thing,” she said.
A Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Friday that Abbas would formally present the political platform of his anticipated new government — including the provisions promised to Kerry — to the PLO Central Committee on Friday.
Earlier Friday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Sky News in Arabic that Hamas is not a terror organization and never will be.
Erekat added in the Sky News Arabic interview that Hamas is not required to recognize Israel, since there are parties in Israel which don’t recognize the state of Palestine.
“Has [Israel’s Prime Minister] Netanyahu asked the Jewish Home party [an Orthodox-nationalist coalition partner] to recognize the state of Palestine?” Erekat asked. “Has Netanyahu himself recognized the state of Palestine? [Yair] Lapid [head of the centrist Yesh Atid coalition party] has not recognized the state of Palestine,” he said. Thus “Hamas is not required to recognize Israel.”
Erekat said that the PLO was responsible for negotiations with Israel. “Israel needs to understand that authority over negotiations belongs to the PLO, and all Palestinian governments so far, including the one of Ismail Haniyeh, have agreed that the authority over negotiations belongs to the PLO and to the government.”
Were the PLO to reach an agreement with Israel, Erekat said, it would be submitted to a referendum.