Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal buried the hatchet at a Cairo reconciliation ceremony yesterday that ends a nearly four-year feud, but has angered Israel.
Palestinians gathered in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to celebrate the long-awaited agreement to put an end to rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza, and restore the unity shattered by deadly fighting in June 2007.
In London, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the first leg of a tour aimed at convincing European leaders that the deal between Abbas’ secular Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas, which the Jewish state boycotts as a terrorist organization, will be disastrous for Middle East peace.
Abbas said the Palestinians had decided to “turn the black page of division forever,” as he joined Meshaal and the leaders of other Palestinian factions in finalizing the long-awaited agreement inked on Tuesday.
“We are certain of success so long as we’re united ... Reconciliation clears the way not only to putting the Palestinian house in order, but also to a just peace,” he added.
Abbas said Netanyahu must now “choose between [building] settlements and peace,” and accused Israel of opposing the Palestinian reconciliation accord as “a pretext to avoid peace negotiations.”
He was countering Netanyahu’s insistence that his Palestinian Authority needs to choose between unity with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel, and peace with the Jewish state.
The reconciliation deal provides for the formation of an interim government to lay the groundwork for presidential and parliamentary elections within a year. Negotiations on the new government were due to start after the Cairo ceremony.