Abbas, Meshal Meet for First Time Since Fatah-Hamas Unity Deal

During talks in Doha, the two Palestinian leaders agreed to push reconciliation deal forward; senior Palestinian official to Haaretz: Abbas represents the Palestinians, just like Netanyahu represents Israel.

Abbas Meshal
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shaking hands with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha, May 5, 2014. Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal agreed Monday to work immediately on implementing the unity deal recently signed by Fatah and Hamas, in the first top-level meeting since the two Palestinian groups agreed to reconcile.

Abbas, who arrived in Doha for his grandson's college graduation, used the opportunity to meet with Meshal and discuss reconciliation.

Husam Badran, a spokesman for Hamas, said Monday that the two also discussed the Palestinian position regarding negotiations with Israel. Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the sides intend to coordinate their positions in order to gain recognition and support from the international community for a joint government.

A senior Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks told Haaretz that it should not be expected that Meshal and Hamas will publicly recognize Israel, but that the sides are drafting an agreement that would indicate that the official Palestinian stance will be represented by the Palestinian Authority, which had already recognized Israel and is committed to past agreements.

"When we, the Palestinians, hear Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel we understand that they do not recognize the Palestinians' rights to a state, but no one in the world is complaining to Netanyahu," he said.

 "The Palestinian Authority is who represents the Palestinian people - not any other statement by officials in Fatah or Hamas – and the chairman of the Palestinian Authority is Abu Mazen. If Israel is serious and the prime minister is interested in a peace deal, the address is Abbas – just as Abbas sees him as the elected prime minister and not some minister or other," the official said.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian media reported that 300 policemen and security force personnel would be transferred from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip as part of the agreement, and that Hamas policemen would be integrated into the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.

The two last met with each other in January 2013, in Cairo. At the time, an Egyptian official said the two factions had agreed to implement a long-delayed reconciliation pact, but no long-lasting agreement came out of those talks. The current reconciliation deal was announced April 23.

Abbas flew to Qatar on Sunday, where he was scheduled to attend his grandson's graduation Monday morning, before the Meshal meeting.

When the reconciliation pact was announced last month, Moussa Abu Marzouk, Meshal's deputy, said at a conference in the Gaza Strip that the two sides had reached agreement on all issues regarding the formation of a joint government. He noted the major remaining test would be carrying out agreements on the ground.

The target date for forming the unity government was one month, with elections to follow within six months.