Under US pressure, Abbas and Mofaz reportedly to meet in Jordan next week

As the rift between Hamas and Fatah deepens, senior PA officials turn their gaze to Israel’s new coalition to restart peace talks

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would like to meet Israeli officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, PA mouthpiece Al-Ayyam reported Thursday.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the official Voice of Palestine radio station Wednesday that an Israeli-Palestinian meeting may take place soon, although no exact time has been scheduled. An unnamed Palestinian source told Al-Ayyam that Mofaz and Abbas will likely meet in Amman, Jordan, next week to discuss ways of renewing the peace negotiations, which have been stalled since September 2010.

In May, Mofaz and his Kadima party joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, raising hopes that the government, free from coalition pressures, would be able to restart talks with the Palestinians.

Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad told graduating police officers in Gaza Wednesday that ‘there can be no reconciliation with secularists. We must first reconcile with God and only the rule of Islam will prevail’

Another PLO official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Voice of Palestine Thursday that even the idea of organizing a meeting between Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu is being circulated. “However, the Israelis have done nothing, politically or practically, to enable such a meeting.”

It is the United States which is now pushing for the Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Thursday. According to the daily, American envoy David Hill will arrive in Israel within days to discuss relaunching the negotiations.

Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, continue to publicly condition the resumption of negotiations on an Israeli halt to settlement building, recognition of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, and a mass release of Palestinian prisoners.

However it is Hamas — an organization stridently opposed to normalization with Israel — which constitutes the most significant stumbling block to a new round of negotiations. But with Hamas-Fatah relations at an all-time low, Fatah no longer sees itself as restrained by a faltering reconciliation agreement with Hamas that refuses to materialize.

On Wednesday, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad denigrated Fatah when he told graduating police officers in Gaza that “there can be no reconciliation with secularists. We must first reconcile with God and only the rule of Islam will prevail.”

Abed Rabbo, a Christian, said that Hammad’s comments were “a type of extreme hallucination in the name of Islam, an attempt to divide Palestinians into a secular camp and a religious camp,” Bethlehem-based news agency Maan reported.

Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abbas-Netanyahu meeting on the way? (photo credit: Nati Shohat / FLASH90)
Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abbas-Netanyahu meeting on the way? (photo credit: Nati Shohat / FLASH90)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah declared Wednesday that June 13 — the fifth anniversary of Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip and Fatah’s expulsion from the territory — would be celebrated annually as an official “police day.” A Fatah spokesman, Ahmad Assaf, told Maan that Hamas’s announcement was a “black day in Palestinian history” and a “new coup” against the progress achieved in reconciliation talks.

Meanwhile, Hamas detainees in PA prisons have begun using the weapon of hunger strikes, which have proven effective against the Israel Prison Service. A Hamas leader from Tulkarm who was arrested by PA security forces on Sunday, Sheikh Ammar Manaa, began his fifth day of a hunger strike protesting his violent arrest earlier this week. Another Hamas activist, Abdullah Akar, has been fasting for 20 days in his Nablus prison cell. Hamas parliamentarians told the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas news agency, that Akar’s life is now in danger if he does not receive urgent medical intervention.

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