Hamas Divided over Unity Deal

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The much-touted Palestinian unity deal announced last Monday from Qatar has exposed divisions in Hamas.

Gaza-based Hamas officials issued a statement Thursday rejecting the agreement, while Hamas leaders in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) issued their own statement supporting it, AFP reported.

Thirty-one Hamas legislators in Gaza said appointing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of an interim government violated Palestinian Basic Law. On that basis, the agreement signed by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Monday should be cancelled.

"After examining the question of Mahmoud Abbas taking on the premiership as well as the presidency -- and discussing the issue with legal experts -- the move was found to be in violation of Palestinian Basic Law," the legislators' statement read.

The legal department of the Palestinian Legislative Council also called the agreement "unconstitutional."

Others argued that reconciliation superseded all other issues.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said the deal was about ending the division, Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported.

"This is not about choosing Abbas or forming a unity government as much as it is about ending the state of division [between the two factions]," Radwan said.

Hamas legislators Riad al-Amleh and Fathi Qarawi also said Palestinian unity was the key issue, with Qarawi sure the disagreement would not cause Hamas to splinter.

Meanwhile, a report by the London-based al-Hayat claimed the Obama administration had no objections to the reconciliation deal and had so informed the Palestinian Authority.

The report quoted Hamas member Izzat al-Rishq, who denied there were any internal disagreements among Hamas members over the deal.

"The important thing now is to implement the agreement on the ground," al-Rishq said.

Israel strongly objects to the union between Fatah and Hamas, listed as a terror group by the U.S., European Union and Canada.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Abbas he would "abandon the path of peace" if he joined forces with the "enemies of peace." He challenged Abbas to choose between Hamas and Israel.

"President Abbas, you can't have it both ways," Netanyahu said Monday when the deal was announced. "It's either a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel. It's one or the other. You can't have them both."

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