Negotiations to form a unity government between rival Palestinian political parties Hamas and Fatah were postponed on Sunday, as cracks have started to form in the détente between the two groups. Despite initial success, negotiations are stalled due to strong disagreement over who will be prime minister in a unified Palestinian government.
Fatah's candidate for prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is uniformly rejected by Hamas, and his nomination led to the postponement of unification meetings on Tuesday. "Salam Fayyad is a criminal who should be put on trial," said Mahmoud Zahar, a senior leader of Hamas in Gaza. "He has tortured our people in prison. He is not acceptable to anyone in Hamas."
A rift has also developed between Khaled Mishaal, Hamas' political bureau chief, and other senior leaders of the terrorist organization. In a recent interview with Lebanese paper al Akhbar, Mishaal appeared to support Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas in his drive to carry on negotiations with Israel. Other senior leaders called for continued resistance and an end to talks with the Jewish state.
According to MEMRI, Hamas has even talked of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. It has said its only bargaining point would be negotiating the departure of the Jews from Israel.
Despite Hamas' opposition, Fayyad is well supported in Palestinian society. "The independent Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed broad public support for Fayyad," AFP reports.
Talks between Hamas and Fatah were further pushed back by Mahmoud Abbas's trip to Turkey on Tuesday. Abbas is scheduled to meet with the Turkish president, prime minister, and foreign minister later in the week. Not to be outdone, Hamas' Mishaal arrived unexpectedly on Wednesday in the Turkish city of Istanbul, meeting with Turkey's foreign minister. Turkish officials "would not comment" on whether Mishaal and Abbas would meet, according to Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily.
Reconciliation talks were widely supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional Islamist power. The Muslim Brotherhood's Egyptian leader, Mohamed Badie, gave his congratulations to a Hamas-led delegation last month, where he also "called for continued unity against the 'Zionist' occupation," according to an article on the group's website.