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Hope, hostility, doubt meet Doha declaration

This posting has 4 items:
1) reaction in Gaza, Ma’an;
2) reaction in Gaza, MENA;
3) Al Jazeera, issues at stake; and
4) IMEMC Netanyahu responds

Doha agreement divides political opinion

Ma’an news

GAZA CITY — The Doha agreement signed on Monday by President Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal has been welcomed and criticized in equal measure by politicians and analysts.

Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar told Ma’an that the agreement “contradicted basic Palestinian law and overstepped the Palestinian Legislative Council.”

He urged President Abbas to take serious steps to implement the Cairo agreement as a whole, rather than being selective about which articles to implement.

“Hamas has shown flexibility and credibility about reconciliation, leaving aside partial and private interests. The ball is now in President Abbas’ court and he needs to take practical steps, stop security measures in the West Bank and halt negotiations and security coordination with the Israelis,” he added.

Political analyst from Bethlehem Akram Atallah said the Doha agreement was a positive step as it reflected a goal most Palestinians want to achieve.

“The Doha agreement is important because it helps translate the Cairo agreement into action,” he told Ma’an.

When basic laws contradict with national interests, the laws must be set aside, Atallah said, when asked about any legal controversy over the agreement.

Political analyst Mustafa Sawwaf, however, criticized the legality of the Doha agreement, saying it is “null because Palestinian basic law does not authorize the president to be prime minister at the same time.”

“I believe this agreement will not see the light, nor will it be translated into action. I am afraid it was signed just to show courtesy to the emir of Qatar,” he added.

Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal signed an agreement in Doha on Monday which stipulated that Abbas will head an interim government.

The accord also included agreements on releasing political prisoners, reforming the Palestinian National Council and activating the PLO for the next elections, Palestine TV said.

A Fatah-Hamas unity deal but celebrations in Gaza absent

For the first time Gazans are not celebrating a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas

MENA,(Middle East News Agency, Cairo)

Rallies, fireworks and traffic jams in support of the Doha Declaration, an agreement signed on Monday between Palestinian factions ruling the West Bank and Gaza, Fatah and Hamas, were unusually absent from Gaza city’s streets.

Following previous announcements of unity between the two factions, Gaza city was witness to large-scale rallies. Monday’s meeting in Doha, which resulted in an agreement to form a national government comprised of technocrats led by Mahmoud Abbas, did not generate the usual enthusiasm in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza told MENA that “past experiences with such agreements have frustrated us since they didn’t achieve anything on the ground, they shook hands but didn’t reconcile.”

Palestinian Abdel Al-Hadi Aukal said that “the Gaza strip saw mass rallies never before witnessed in 2007 after a unity deal in Mecca. Fireworks were launched and we stayed up until dawn in the Gundi area in downtown Gaza but nothing happened afterwards, and then came the Cairo agreement, and similar rallies took place but it didn’t lead to anything. This points to a lack of seriousness in the implementation of the agreements and so the issue of conciliation between Fatah and Hamas has become boring to the Palestinian street, as well as creating an air of distrust.”

Aukal nevertheless expressed hope that the Doha agreement will realise different and positive results, that would satisfy the Palestinian street and end the bitter division between Fatah and Hamas.

Pharmacist Talal Abu Rahma said that reconciliation is not trusted by the street. “There have been many reconciliation meetings between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, Mecca and Qatar that have not yielded anything, he said. Abu Rahma does not expect any tangible progress in terms of reconciliation.

Commenting on Abbas’ premiership of the prospective government, Abu Rahma asked rhetorically, “isn’t there a single Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza who qualifies to head the government?” He said that the choice of Abbas would not bring the sides any closer.

Naji Shurrab, a Gaza-based political analyst, disagreed with this view, predicting that the Doha agreement would be followed by others, saying that the current political environment, both in Palestine and across the regime, is different from previously. He described the current environment as “favourable to reconciliation” arguing that “Palestinian efforts will be crowned with reconciliation as long as there’s a common vision.”

Shurrab insisted that the moment is one of reconciliation aiming for the political construction of Palestine, so that Palestinians may adapt to the new regional reality, stressing that Palestinians cannot face the emerging challenges in a state of disunity. He added that choosing Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate solution to many problems and a manifestation of a common political vision, reflecting a high level of flexibility on the part of Hamas.

Abbas to head Palestinian unity government

Hamas endorses proposal in which Palestinian president will assume PM role in interim body to prepare for upcoming poll.

Al Jazeera, agencies

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has agreed to lead an interim national consensus government to prepare for upcoming elections, under an agreement signed in the Qatari capital.

The “Doha Declaration” was signed in the Gulf state on Monday by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in the presence of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar’s emir.

The agreement states that the new Palestinian government will comprise “independent technocrats,” and will also be responsible for overseeing reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, condemned Monday’s deal, saying it would be impossible to reach peace with a government that included Hamas, which Israel and Western nations consider a terrorist group.

“It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can’t have them both,” Netanyahu said.

A new attempt to restart low-level talks last month ended without a breakthrough. With the reconciliation deal, Abbas appears to have concluded that he has a better chance of repairing the Palestinians’ internal troubles than of reaching an agreement with the hardline Israeli leader.

The European Union offered qualified support, saying it considered Palestinian reconciliation and elections as important steps toward an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

The EU, one of the major financial backers of the Palestinian Authority, “looks forward to continuing its support,” provided the new Palestinian government was committed to nonviolence, recognised Israel and supported a negotiated solution to the Mideast conflict, said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Abbas will assume the role of prime minister and prepare for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

The new government will be responsible for the “smooth implementation of presidential and parliamentary elections,” according to the declaration which was read out to reporters.

It did not specify when the elections would be held.

A separate meeting that will bring together all other Palestinian factions will be held in Cairo on February 18.

“That’s when we’ll set the date for the parliamentary and presidential elections,” a Palestinian official told the AFP news agency before Monday’s declaration.

‘Removing obstacles’

Among other major issues to be decided in Cairo are elections for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which does not include Hamas, the official said.

“We agreed on the importance of holding the elections quickly … and removing any obstacles that might delay the polls,” said Fatah spokesman Azzam al-Ahmad, who is accompanying Abbas in Doha.

The two factions reached a reconciliation pact almost a year ago, seeking to end more than four years of separate governments in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which is ruled by Abbas’ Western-backed PA.

As part of the deal, an interim unity government was to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.

However, both sides failed to carry out promised goodwill gestures and disagreed sharply over the composition of an interim government.

Abbas initially proposed that Salam Fayyad, the appointed prime minister of the PA, serve as head of the transitional unity government, but Hamas objected.

Netanyahu Slams Abbas For Doha Agreement
By Saed Bannoura, IMEMC & Agencies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the reconciliation agreement with Hamas, singed on Monday at the Qatari Capital, Doha. The deal between Fateh and Hamas head, Khaled Mashaal, states that Abbas would become the Prime Minister of the Unity Government until new elections are held.

During a meeting with his Likud right-wing party, Netanyahu stated that “Abbas must choose between peace with Israel or coalition with the Hamas movement,” Israeli Haaretz reported.

Netanyahu claimed that Israel “conducted extensive efforts to advance the peace process,” and added that “should Abbas implement the agreement that was signed in Doha, he will be departing the path of peace to join Hamas that ignores the International Community.”

The Doha agreement is considered a major advancement in unity talks between Hamas and Fateh, and if implemented, could mean the actual implementation of Palestinian national unity, especially since one of the major issues that obstructed this implementation was the post of the Prime Minister.

Palestinian media sources reported that Fayyad and Ismail Haniyya of Hamas will likely be serving deputies to Abbas, as Haniyya will be running the affairs of the Gaza Strip while Fayyad will be responsible for West Bank affairs.

The government is intended to be a government of technocrats, and will have several major tasks headed by the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and for preparing for the new presidential and legislative elections.

Israel and the United States believe that any agreement with Hamas is a deviation from the stalled peace process, and another “setback”.

Netanyahu’s statements regarding international law and international community come despite the fact that Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a direct violation to international Law, and disregards the fact that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem, violate the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.

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