Hamas, Abbas's PLO Announce Reconciliation Agreement ALAQSA TV Reuters
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Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad meet in Gaza for talks aimed at reaching a reconciliation agreement between the two rival Palestinian groups Photo by AP

The Foreign Ministry's intelligence wing believes that Palestinian reconciliation is far from implementation, declaring in a document distributed late Wednesday that the gaps between Hamas and Fatah are still far too wide.

The Foreign Ministry's evaluation comes after the Prime Minister's Bureau launched a harsh attack against the reconciliation, and after Israel canceled a scheduled meeting with the Palestinian Authority's negotiating team to discuss the peace process.

The political-security cabinet met Thursday morning to discuss the reconciliation agreement and to determine how to proceed with Israel's response to the matter.

Representatives of the National Security Council, the Israel Defense Forces intelligence and planning departments, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry briefed the ministers during the meeting on developments in the Palestinian arena and offered recommendations on Israeli policy toward the reconciliation agreement.

Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the cabinet, said following the meeting that Israel must announce a complete halt to the talks with the Palestinians until Abbas agreed to cancel the agreement with the terror organization Hamas.

Israel must make it clear immediately that it would not allow the Palestinian Authority to hold elections in the West Bank if Hamas were to participate.

"Abu Mazen has proven that his only intention is to deceive and to lie," Erdan said. "You can't talk about peace and join forces with children killers."

Israel must not repeat the mistakes made by Ehud Olmert's government and allow Hamas to talke part in elections, he added.

In its initial evaluation on the significance of the process, the Foreign Ministry's Center for Political Research estimated that it was too early to get excited about the agreement and advised waiting to see whether it even reaches the stage of implementation.

"This is a very general framework agreement, deliberately vague and far from implementation," the Foreign Ministry wrote in its analysis. "The understandings between Fatah and Hamas were formalized against the background of a certain meeting of interests in light of the weakness and difficulties of both sides… The agreements is reminiscent of previous understandings between the sides which weren't realized. Despite the shared interests and the optimism there still exists an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between Fatah and Hamas. The sides are far from bridging the divide."

The ministry document said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is hopeful the reconciliation with Hamas will "provide leverage over Israel to renew the negotiations on his own terms" and will challenge the Hamas policy vis-à-vis the peace process. On the other hand, Hamas hopes the agreement will change Egypt's negative stance toward the group, ensure its integration into PLO institutions, and give its West Bank members more leeway.

"In reality, many details are yet to be agreed upon and Abbas has five weeks to decide between the alternatives… Abbas still retains room to maneuver and can either advance or stall the reconciliation according to his needs," the document reads. "Implementing the understandings depends on the progress in the negotiations with Israel and on the international response, first and foremost on the U.S. and Israeli responses."