Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the political bureau chief of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, vowed in a ceremony held Wednesday in Cairo that they are determined to turn back the “black page of division”. Meshaal declared its commitment to the goal of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty over the land of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In his comments, which opened the celebration of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas on Wednesday, Abbas said that “the page of division wrapped up forever.” He accused of Israel of providing “excuses” to avoid the peace process.
All the Palestinian factions signed the pact on Tuesday in Cairo. However, the main ceremony on Wednesday was delayed by about an hour and a quarter, because of last minute differences over the protocol arrangements for the celebration, according to Palestinian sources. They said Abbas refused to sit next to Meshaal.
At the start of the official ceremony, Abbas sat on the podium next to Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Arabi and Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi while Meshaal sat in the first row next to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, according to the same sources.
This is the first time Meshaal and Abbas have been meeting since the fighting between their respective parties took place in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Meshaal said in his speech that his movement will work to achieve “the Palestinian national goal” of establishing an “independent Palestinian state with sovereignty over the land of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem as its capital without giving up an inch or the Right of Return”.
He added that his movement was ready to “pay any price for reconciliation,” saying that “Our battle is only with Israel.”
Abbas said he rejects Israeli intervention in Palestinian affairs, stressing that “Hamas is part of our people,” and “no one has the right to tell us why you do this or that” and “I say to (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, You must choose between settlements and peace”.
The Israeli Prime Minister said last week that Abbas must choose between “reconciliation with Hamas and peace,” saying that this agreement closes the door to the peace process.
The rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas is felt on the ground. For the first time since 2007, Hamas allowed the Palestinian Authority TV to broadcast from the center of Gaza while Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV broadcasts from Ramallah, West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority television interviewed senior Hamas member, Ismail Radwan and spoke with Gaza citizens. Radwan said: The “dispute behind us and we opened a page of love.”
On its part, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper said Wednesday that the Israeli Foreign Ministry believes that the reconciliation agreement between rival Palestinian groups provides a positive opportunity for the Jewish state. The newspaper obtained a confidential document from the ministry saying that the reconciliation agreement between the “enemies of yesterday” can give Israel, “a strategic opportunity to create real change in the Palestinian context.”