Fatah and Hamas representatives began talks in Cairo Tuesday on the implementation of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement, focusing on the establishment of a Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government in the West Bank and Gaza. Fatah and Hamas have been estranged since Hamas seized power in a bloody 2007 coup in Gaza, with Fatah remaining in control of the West Bank.
The main subject of contention is the identity of the new PA prime minister. The Fatah Central Committee has voted for current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has won plaudits for his corruption-fighting activities even as he has talked out of both sides of his mouth on fighting terrorism.
Fayyad's candidacy is seen as critical to determining whether the PA will continue to receive Western financial support and political backing. But Hamas strongly opposes Fayyad, regarding him as a tool of the United States and Israel. On Tuesday, Fayyad reportedly indicated that he would not attempt to go forward in the face of continued opposition from Hamas, saying he wouldn't be an obstacle to the formation of a unity government.
The Obama Administration is reportedly pressuring Israel to accept the 1967 border as the basis for a peace settlement with the Palestinian unity government. Jennifer Rubin writes that this would mean that "Israel would have to bargain for the Western Wall, which Obama used as a rhetorical flourish at his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to woo the Jewish community" by pointing to the longstanding Jewish connection to the wall.
Rubin adds that the administration is insisting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiate with the PA even though Hamas has failed to endorse the Quartet Principles: recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism and agreeing to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Read more about the Fatah-Hamas agreement here.