US Says Palestinian Unity Cabinet Must Recognize Israel, Hamas Snaps Back

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations said Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognize Israel and disarm Hamas movement.

Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions in Washington’s first detailed response to the landmark reconciliation deal signed between Hamas and Fatah last week. 

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties -– including to disarm terrorists — and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” he added.

But his statement drew an immediate retort from Hamas.

Bassem Naim, an official from the movement, rejected the comments as “blatant interference” in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the group planned to comply with any of the demands.

Naim accused the US of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” Naim told AFP.

“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.

Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority – currently dominated by Fatah – is due to resume control of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip by December 1.

Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for November 21.

A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’ refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.

King Salman Asserts Saudi Support for Trump’s Firm Iran Policy


Riyadh – Saudi Arabia said it supports and welcomes the recently announced United States strategy towards Iran, its hostile behavior, and funding of international and regional terror, said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz when chairing a cabinet session on Tuesday.

He also confirmed Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to collaborating with US partners in an effort to achieve objectives announced by US President Donald Trump.

At the outset of the cabinet session, King Salman briefed ministers on the telephone call he had with Trump during which the monarch emphasized Riyadh’s support of his firm strategy towards Iran, its aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and worldwide.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s full commitment to continue working with its partners in the US to achieve the desired goals announced by Trump.

The King also briefed the cabinet on the results of his meeting with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, during which they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed overall regional events.

The cabinet was briefed on the telephone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the Palestinian leader reviewed with King Salman the recently signed Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.

King Salman gave great emphasis to “unity” in paving the way ahead for the Palestinian Authority to further serve its citizens. He said that the Kingdom is looking forward to this important reconciliation, which realizes the hopes and aspirations of all Palestinians.

The King briefed the cabinet on a telephone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi during which he stressed Riyadh’s support for Iraq’s unity, security and stability. He underlined the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi constitution for the interest of Iraq and its people.

The Cabinet also reviewed a number of regional and international developments, including outcomes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual and the World Bank (WB) meetings in Washington.

Meetings focused on the development of the Kingdom’s economy and its efforts in implementing its transformation Vision 2030, affiliated operational programs and initiatives.

Palestinian Authority to Take Control of Gaza Crossings in November


Leading member of the Hamas movement, Saleh al-Arouri, announced on Saturday that the Palestinian Authority will be handed control of the Gaza Strip crossings in early November.

Arouri was part of the delegation that signed the reconciliation with the Fatah group in Cairo on Thursday.

The Gaza crossings was a thorny issues at the talks because Hamas has had control of them for the past ten years.

Arouri told al-Quds newspaper that Hamas and Fatah agreed to hold “deep and detailed” discussions in Gaza between security officials from both factions.

The security forces in Gaza will remain as they are until an agreement is reached over a mechanism to merge them, he explained. This will help avoid any “security vacuum.”

The reconciliation called for the merger of the security and police forces in Gaza and the West Bank in a manner that would ensure their unity and that they adhere to the Interior Ministry.

Asked if the agreement means that Hamas will abandon its armed resistance, Arouri replied: “Partnership means partnership in decisions of war and peace.”

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip after bloody clashes with Fatah in 2007.

On September 17, Hamas dissolved the administrative committee that had taken over the role of the government in Gaza to pave the way for the return of the Palestinian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah, to the coastal strip.

The Cairo-sponsored reconciliation, signed on October 12, is expected to end the ten-year divide between the two factions.

The agreement calls for forming a national unity government and preparing for holding legislative and presidential elections. It also calls for establishing joint committees to take in the 45,000 civil and military employees Hamas hired at public institutions.

US, Egypt Urge Israel against ‘Sabotaging’ Palestinian Reconciliation


Tel Aviv, Washington – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received firm messages from the United States and Egypt leaderships, demanding him against “sabotaging” the Palestinian reconciliation deal, political sources in Tel Aviv revealed.

Chances should be given to allow the deal to be a success, they said.

They noted that at first glance, it appears that the PM’s reaction to the reconciliation is negative because he has been demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

He has also been demanding that Hamas be stripped of its weapons and sever ties with Iran.

The sources said that this response is in fact a “moderate” one.

In his first reaction, Netanyahu had said that “we will not accept a fake reconciliation where Palestinians will reach an agreement at the expense of our existence.”

He later added however: “Israel will study the developments on the ground and work accordingly.”

An official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry underlined the premier’s “remarkable” diplomatic rhetoric, while the political sources attributed his position to his desire against harming ties with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

He is also aware that the US administration of President Donald Trump welcomed Cairo’s sponsoring of the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Furthermore, Netanyahu realizes that the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza, even partially, will serve Israel’s security interest.

Observers believe that Netanyahu was forced to take a more lenient stand, but he is still “unconvinced” of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The premier and other officials in his government are concerned with the reconciliation possible longevity because the Palestinian division had greatly benefited Israel.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett went so far as to describe the government that will be established through the agreement as a “terrorism unity cabinet.”

Other observers said that the reconciliation will be short-lived due to ongoing Palestinian and Arab differences.

Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth said: “The Cairo talks left Hamas with its tunnels, labs, weapons factories, drones and with the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades and their naval commandos. In fact, Hamas’s military wing remains as it were—under the direct and exclusive command of Hamas.

“This is why Israel views the agreement signed on Thursday as one that has no chance of being realized, so there’s no reason to even waste energy on trying to sabotage it. Especially as both the American administration and the Egyptians have asked Israel not to interfere,” he noted in an oped on Friday.

‘Cairo Agreement’ Closes Chapter of Palestinian Division

Ramallah- Fatah and Hamas movements closed on Thursday the chapter of Palestinian division by signing the most important agreement over political reconciliation between the two sides.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told reporters after the signing ceremony in Cairo that the agreement inked with Hamas’ representative Saleh al-Arouri would empower a national unity government to assume its full authorities in Gaza, the first among other steps to follow in line with the agreement, which declared December 1 as the deadline for the Palestinian Authority to take over the Gaza Strip.

The reconciliation deal also allows the PA to take over Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel no later than November 1, while the PA Presidential Guard forces would control the Rafah crossing and the border with Egypt at a later time, in coordination with Cairo.

Directly after the signing of the deal, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the agreement “strengthens and hastens the process of ending the division and restoring unity of the Palestinian people, land and institutions.”

The president also called on his government and all security apparatuses to work for implementing the agreement.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah responded by saying his cabinet was ready to immediately start assuming all responsibilities to govern the Gaza Strip.

Hamdallah also said he will soon travel to Gaza. The prime minister visited the enclave earlier this month following the first agreement between Fatah and Hamas allowing the PA government to assume its administrative responsibility there.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinians celebrated carrying Abbas’ photos for the first time since Hamas controlled the Strip in 2007.

Hamdallah would carry his duties until the establishment of a national unity government, which Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions are expected to discuss during a meeting in Cairo on November 21.

Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in a decade within a month. His trip is expected to announce the end of the division between the two Palestinian sides.

Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah’s Information Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is no doubt that the President is going to Gaza, but there is still no schedule for his visit. The issue needs wide preparations.”

Azzam al-Ahmed: Egypt Exerted Unprecedented Efforts towards Palestinian Reconciliation


Cairo – Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed voiced his optimism that the latest round of Egypt-sponsored dialogue with the rival Hamas group would lead to an end to Palestinian division.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Egypt has made unprecedented efforts towards the reconciliation file due to the changing regional and international political stances.”

The dialogue between Fatah and Hamas kicked off in Cairo on Tuesday.

An informed source predicted to Asharq Al-Awsat that they will last two to three days.

Ahmed, who heads the Fatah delegation at the Cairo talks, revealed that one of his group’s priorities is enabling the Palestinian government to manage its affairs in Ramallah, Gaza and Khan Younes.

He explained however that this process will not take place overnight.

Hamas has meanwhile focused its energies on lifting Palestinian Authority (PA) “sanctions” against it in Gaza.

Hussam Badran, who is part of the Hamas delegation at the Cairo talks, said on Tuesday that the movement is keen on resolving the repercussions and negative effects of the division on Gaza.

“The Palestinians guarantee the achievement of the reconciliation. We are waiting for national factions to play their role to that end and we are communicating with all sides. We are prepared to listen to any criticism and advice,” he continued.

A Fatah official in Cairo, Samih Barzaq, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “unprecedented” measures taken by the PA against Gaza employees will be lifted “very soon”.

The PA had in the past few months cut the salaries of several Gaza employees and sacked a number of others in an attempt to pressure Hamas to return the coastal strip back under the control of the Palestinian government.

Hamas had seized control of the Gaza Strip after armed clashes with Fatah in 2007.

Hamas had declared in September its readiness for reconciliation with Fatah in a bid to end the Palestinian division. This includes holding general elections.

Barzaq said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will commit to the democratic results of the elections.

“No one inside or outside of the Palestinian territories can object to the results because whoever wins them will be a Palestinian and he would have won through the votes of his fellow citizens,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian cabinet held its annual meeting chaired by Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah during which it addressed his visit to Gaza last week.

The cabinet expressed its readiness to assume all duties in Gaza with the approval of concerned factions.

Azzam Ahmed: Enabling Govt. in Gaza Key Factor for Palestinian Dialogue


The first dialogue session between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah got underway in Cairo on Tuesday.

Head of the Fatah delegation at the Palestinian reconciliation talks Azzam al-Ahmed said that the key issue that was agreed upon for the dialogue agenda was enabling the government to operate in the Gaza Strip, reported the Palestinian news agency (WAFA).

He said that the case of the border crossings has been “resolved” and practical steps should be immediately taken on the ground, whether on the Israeli or Egyptian side.

Ahmed revealed that Hamas effectively controls the crossings through its security forces. This issue should be resolved within a week or two.

The talks between Hamas and Fatah will go over the 2011 reconciliation agreement that was signed in Cairo. They will address the measures needed to hold a meeting for the factions that signed the deal.

Tangible steps will be taken to implement the agreement when these factions convene, explained Ahmed.

The Cairo talks will also address general elections, the judiciary, security and Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The Hamas and Fatah delegations taking part in the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks had arrived in Cairo on Monday night.

Meeting in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh Addresses Latest Security Developments


Beirut – A Palestinian committee met in the refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in southern Lebanon to address the latest developments in the camp.

The meeting was held by the “operations room,” a committee that was established in wake of a Palestinian embassy meeting Beirut.

Saturday’s meeting was chaired by commander of Palestinian national security in Lebanon and head of the operations room Sobhi Abou Arab

The gatherers also tackled the restructuring of the joint Palestinian force.

The committee’s meetings will remain open in order to address all security issues in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.

The case of fugitives wanted by Lebanese authorities remains the most contentious issue that attracts the attention of the Lebanese and Palestinians alike. Some information said that the fugitives had fled to Syria and Turkey.

Lebanese authorities fear that some of the wanted suspects may resort to attacks in Lebanon to “avenge” the expulsion of the ISIS terrorist group and the Nusra Front from the outskirts of the northeastern border region of Arsal.

Hamas Will Take Part in Palestinian Govt., Refuses to Discuss its Arms


Ramallah – The Hamas movement announced that it will be part of a Palestinian national unity government that will be formed soon as part of the recent reconciliation with the rival Fatah organization.

This will help pave way for holding general elections.

The two Palestinian factions will tackle the details of this government when they meet in Cairo in a series of meetings that will kick off on Tuesday.

The Hamas official responsible for national ties, Hussam Badran, said that the national unity government “means the real participation of all active Palestinian factions, starting with Hamas.”

“This is everyone’s right. In fact, it is a duty at this stage. Our people deserve to choose who should lead them on the path of salvation from occupation,” he stressed.

The mechanism of resisting and confronting the occupation should also be devised during this phase, he added.

It remains to be seen whether Hamas will participate directly or indirectly in the government. Independent figures may be chosen. Hamas’ participation is one of the obstacles that may hinder reconciliation due to the Israeli-American demand that any upcoming government recognize Israel.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that unknown figures may be chosen to occupy ministerial posts because they may not have clear direct ties with Hamas and other factions. This will allow the government to commit to the Palestinian Liberation Organization program and avoid having Hamas recognize Israel.

Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Hayyah said that nothing can stand in the way of reconciliation if the conviction to achieve partnership and united work is available.

“We are headed towards Palestinian reconciliation with an open mind that will help make the anticipated Cairo meeting a success,” he added.

“There is a real chance to end the Palestinian division … it is wrong to place obstacles before the dialogue has even started,” he continued.

He said that Hamas believes that there should be a single authority, government and legislative council that would represent each Palestinian.

It should be able to manage their lives on the basis of serving and supporting the citizen and not at the expense of the Palestinian cause, Hayya stated.

He also spoke of a single government that would rule the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This will also encompass security forces.

The Hamas official vowed however that the “resistance’s weapons” will be left out of the discussions.

“The weapons are not open to discussion. A prior agreement has been made over this,” he said.

The Cairo talks will cover the issue of former Hamas government employees. They will also address border, security and crossings issues.

Palestinian PM Chairs Cabinet Session in Gaza


Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah convened a cabinet meeting in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the first time in three years.

This marks a major step towards reconciliation between the mainstream Fatah party and Islamist group Hamas.

“Today, we stand before an important, historical moment as we begin to get over our wounds, put our differences aside and place the higher national interest above all else,” Hamdallah said.

Tuesday’s meeting in Gaza took place at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Abbas and has ruled the impoverished desert enclave of two million people since then.

The cabinet session was the first in Gaza since 2014, Hamdallah told his ministers, and a major step in a reconciliation process promoted by neighboring Egypt and other US-allied Arab countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting legislators from his right-wing Likud party, said the Palestinians were engaging in “fictitious reconciliations” and he referred to Iranian funding for Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

“The way we see it is very simple: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle the Hamas military wing, cut the ties to Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio.

Abbas told Egyptian TV station CBC on Monday there could be only ”one state, one regime, one law and one weapon” in the Gaza Strip, reiterating a long-held position that security should be in the hands of only the Palestinian Authority (PA), which he heads, and that the PA must control border crossing points.

Both Israel and Egypt – whose intelligence chief arrived in Gaza to meet Hamas leaders, Hamdallah and officials from other Palestinian factions – maintain a partial blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns.

The Palestinian premier arrived in Gaza on Monday with armed guards and an entourage of West Bank officials to a hero’s welcome from about 2,000 people.

“The only way to statehood is through unity,” Hamdallah told the crowd. “We are coming to Gaza again to deepen the reconciliation and end the split.”

He also said the reconciliation will require “hard efforts, time, patience, and wisdom.”

Huge posters of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who brokered the reconciliation effort, were featured outside Abbas’ residence as Hamas policemen were deployed all around.

Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy was set to visit Gaza later on Tuesday for meetings with both sides and carrying a letter from Sisi. It would mark the highest ranking Egyptian official to visit Gaza since 2007.

Hamdallah’s ministers are expected to begin taking over government ministries after Tuesday’s meeting, with negotiations in Cairo on more difficult issues in the coming weeks.