Arab MKs Arrive in Cairo for Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal

Egypt invites MKs Ahmed Tibi, Taleb El-Sana and Mohammed Barakeh to take part in deal as tribute to their efforts to bring about reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah; it remains unclear if the MKs will take an active role in the signing.

Three Arabs Knesset members have arrived in Cairo to take part in the signing of the historic Hamas-Fatah unity deal Wednesday, with the two Palestinian groups reconciling for the first time since a unity government between the two factions collapsed after a five-day civil war in 2007.

United Arab List-Ta'al members Ahmed Tibi and Taleb El-Sana along with Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the Hadash party, were invited by Egypt to take part in the signing of the deal.

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi
Olivier Pitussi

The three Knesset members issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that Egypt had invited them as a tribute to their efforts of the past few years to bring about reconciliation between West Bank-based Fatah and Gaza-based Hamas.

The MKs met with the secretary general of the Arab League on Tuesday, however, it remains unclear whether the three Arab-Israelis will be in the audience at the signing, or active participants alongside Hamas and Fatah representatives.

Representatives from Hamas and Fatah announced in Cairo last week their intention to reconcile, after a four-year-long bitter and at times violent rift, which saw Hamas administering the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the control of the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

More moderate Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas has been making a heavy push for reconciliation with Hamas, with his group signing the reconciliation agreement in October 2009. Hamas, however, had until now refused to give up on demands it had set before the rival group.

Israel has rejected the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying shortly after it was announced that "the Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both. Hamas aspires to destroy Israel and fires rockets at our cities ... at our children."

Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and Israel and the Gaza Strip-based group exchanged heavy fire earlier this month. Hamas hit a school bus with an anti-tank missile, mortally wounding an Israeli child who later died.

Netanyahu implored Fatah on Tuesday not to sign the deal with Islamist movement Hamas, saying "I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to cancel the agreement with Hamas immediately and to choose the way of peace with Israel," in a statement after meeting Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

On Sunday, Israel blocked the transfer of 105 million dollars in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, saying it would withhold the funds until it was clear it would not reach Hamas militants.

Palestinian officials say that Israel's concern is baseless, as any new Palestinian government would be formed by independents.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says the PA won't be able to pay wages unless Israel releases the April revenues, with the Palestinian prime minister telling reporters Monday that the aid-dependent government would have to take out loans to pay its 155,000 workers.