Palestinian Authority Leaders Campaign in Defense of Unity With Hamas

Abbas tells Indyk that reconciliation pact does not change his commitment to peace talks; Erekat accuses Israel of 'piracy' for withholding $100 million in PA funds.

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Amman, January 26, 2012.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Amman, January 26, 2012.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority mounted a campaign Thursday in defense of its reconciliation with Hamas, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas defending the move in a meeting with U.S. special envoy to the Mideast Martin Indyk.

Amid Israeli protests against the move, Kerry spoke with Abbas on Thursday and expressed his "disappointment" with the timing of the deal he reached with the Hamas. Spokeswoman Psaki stated that Kerry made it clear to Abbas that any unity government that comes out from the deal would have to accept the Quartet's condition: Recognition of Israel, repudiation of violence and the honoring of past agreements.

Palestinian sources said Abbas reiterated to Indyk in their meeting that the unity pact with Hamas did not contradict in any way his commitment to the peace process with Israel.

The three-hour meeting took place as Israel's diplomatic-security cabinet voted to suspend talks with the PA and take punitive economic measures against it in response to Wednesday's Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of "robbery and piracy" following the diplomatic-security cabinet's decision to withhold the upcoming monthly transfer of customs duties to Ramallah.

"Israel is not a donor country to the Palestinian people [that is entitled] to freeze these funds," said Erekat. "This is robbery and piracy and the international community must put a stop to such actions."

The mini-cabinet voted to withhold the May 1 transfer of customs duties to the PA, which would come to about $100 million. Israel, which controls the border crossings into the West Bank, collects these duties from returning Palestinians and ordinarily transfers it to the PA.

Echoing Netanyahu's statement that Abbas "chose peace with Hamas over peace with Israel," Erekat said "the Netanyahu government chose settlements over the option of peace. All these steps that Israel has taken amount to an abdication of its responsibilities in the peace process."

Erekat said that in response to Israel's hardline stance in the peace talks, the Palestinian priority now was unity and national reconciliation.

He also accused Netanyahu of duplicity in describing the reconciliation as a deal-breaker with Israel after claiming for so long that Abbas could not make peace with Israel because he only represented half of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told Channel 2 that Hamas' entry into a unity agreement with Abbas at its head meant it had agreed to Abbas' political principles.

"The reconciliation with Hamas is based on the two-state solution and the 1967 borders. Hamas also accepts all the conditions set by the international community," Rajoub said, apparently referring to the Mideast Quartet's insistence that Hamas recognize Israel, put aside violence and honor the Oslo Accord and other agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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