Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Palestinians Reach Unity Governing Deal Abbas to Lead, Risking Talks with Israel

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Palestinians Reach Unity Governing Deal Abbas to Lead, Risking Talks with Israel

Article excerpt

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- After months of wavering, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a decisive step Monday toward reconciliation with the Islamic militant group Hamas, a move that Israel promptly warned would close the door to any future peace talks.

In a deal brokered by Qatar, Mr. Abbas will head an interim unity government to prepare for general elections in the Palestinian territories in the coming months. The agreement appeared to bring reconciliation -- key to any statehood ambitions -- within reach for the first time since the two sides set up rival Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza in 2007.

Monday's deal, signed in the Qatari capital of Doha by Mr. Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, put an end to recent efforts by the international community to revive long-stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on terms of Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Abbas appears to have concluded that he has a better chance of repairing relations with Hamas, which the West has shunned as a terror group, than reaching an agreement with Israel's hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Netanyahu quickly condemned the Doha deal. "It's either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can't have them both," he said in a warning to Mr. Abbas, who has enjoyed broad international support.

In moving closer to Hamas, Mr. Abbas risks losing some of that backing and hundreds of millions of dollars a year in aid.

Qatar, awash with cash from vast oil and gas reserves, assured the Palestinians that it would help limit any political and financial damages, according to Palestinian officials close to the talks.

Whether the Palestinian Authority loses any of the roughly $1 billion in foreign aid it has received each year may partly depend on the interim government's political platform and Hamas' willingness to stay in the background.

The new government is to be made up of politically independent experts, according to the Doha agreement. If headed by Mr. …

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