Rival Palestinian political factions have agreed to reconcile after four bitter years of infighting and turmoil. The Hamas and Fatah groups met in Cairo to formally approve the agreement that calls for unified Palestinian elections next year. Fatah has controlled the West Bank, while Hamas has ruled Gaza.
NPR's Jackie Northam reports Israel is unhappy over the accord and in punishment, has held up a transfer of millions of dollars in tax receipts intended for the Palestinian Authority, run by Palestinian leader and Fatah head, Mahmoud Abbas. As Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also urged Abbas to back out of the deal with Hamas and choose peace with Israel.
That didn't go over well with Abbas, says AP; he used his remarks at the reconciliation event to tell Israel to choose between building Jewish settlements or peace with Palestinians. Abbas denounced 'blackmail' and added it was 'no longer possible for us to accept the occupation of Palestinian land'.
Despite strong Israeli criticism, the Israeli paper, Ha'aretz cited a confidential Israeli Foreign Ministry document with a very different view. It suggested a Palestinian unity government presents Israel with a 'strategic opportunity to create genuine change in the Palestinian context'. It goes on to add 'Such change may serve the long term interests of Israel'.