US pressing for a Palestinian unity government with Hamas

The US and Egypt are pushing for unity, while the PA says it will do nothing until the Americans reopen their Jerusalem consulate.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The U.S. has been pressing for a Palestinian unity government to be formed between Fatah and Hamas, along with nonpolitical technocrats, i24 News confirmed Wednesday.

According to an October 10th Haaretz report, while the Americans are discussing the idea with the Palestinian Authority (PA), Egypt is talking to Hamas. Both senior officials of Fatah, the major Palestinian faction in the PA, and of Hamas told the Hebrew daily that the chances of such a deal seemed slim, though neither side wants to be labeled as the intransigent one.

The Biden administration has three goals in mind, the i24 report said. First and foremost is to end the decades-old, internal Palestinian rift between the Islamist, hardline Hamas and the nationalist, officially secular Fatah. This would then hopefully provide an opportunity to forge some kind of long-term truce with Israel, which Fatah at least officially recognizes but Hamas does not. Such cooperation between the parties could also help to jumpstart the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian reaction struck a defiant note.

“The Palestinian Authority will not respond to any American initiative as long as there is no decision regarding the opening of the consulate in Jerusalem,” PA Minister for Social Development Dr. Ahmad al-Majdalani told the news channel. Nor, he said, would the PA accept “any American dictation regarding inter-Palestinian matters.”

The PA is furious that the Biden administration has yet to fulfill the president’s pledge to reinstate the consulate that acted for decades as a conduit to the Palestinians independent of the American embassy. When former president Donald Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, the consulate’s activities were subsumed into a department within the embassy.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the entire right wing in Israel see the reopening of the consulate as an affront to the sovereignty of Israel over its capital. Bennett has declared that the government will not allow the move, and according to international law, no country can open a diplomatic representation without the host country’s approval.

The consulate is not the only issue of contention, either, said reporter Guy Azriel.  The Palestinians have “a long list of demands before they even agree to speak to the U.S. about this possible initiative,” he said.

As for the Israelis, a “senior government official” told the network that the government has not yet decided on its official position in the matter.

The last attempt at a “national consensus government” was in June 2014. Hamas agreed to have the ministers be nonpolitical technocrats whose main job was to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections, which hadn’t been held since 2006.

At the time, Israel refused to deal with the government, condemning it for having an Israeli and U.S.-designated terrorist organization play any kind of official role in it.

That Palestinian coalition was short-lived. Hamas operatives kidnapped and killed three Jewish teenagers the same month in which it was formed, leading to Israel’s short invasion of the Gaza Strip in the summer. The elections never took place and by June 2015 the unity government resigned.