Hamas agreed 'in principle' to an Egyptian proposal Monday that would give Palestinians a united front in peace talks with Israel.
Hamas and Fatah, bitter rivals who violently split more than two years ago, appear close to a reconciliation deal that could lead to a Palestinian unity government. That would allow Palestinians to present a more unified position in peace talks with Israel, if negotiations aren't run aground by the Israeli government's vow not to talk to Hamas and Hamas's refusal to make a permanent peace with the Jewish state.
Top Hamas official Khaled Mashal told journalists in Cairo on Monday that the Islamist organization agreed "in principle" to an Egyptian proposal that reportedly calls for holding elections in the first half of next year and deploying a joint Fatah-Hamas security force in Gaza. Fatah agreed to the plan a month ago.
The Egyptians "will work on laying down a final draft for the reconciliation project in the coming few days," added Mr. Meshal, the movement's Damascus-based chief, whose statement seemed to indicate a deal was imminent.
But skeptics in both the West Bank and Gaza say that some aspects of the divide still feel insurmountable, and that implementation of such a deal is hard to fathom. Hamas members seek a bigger role in the West Bank, including "integration" into the West Bank security apparatus, which Fatah is unlikely to accept. And given their waning popularity in Gaza, they are unlikely to hold elections in the first half of 2010, says Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.