More 'Double Talk' Threatens P.A. Unity

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Considerable differences between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas continues to delay the formation of the much-touted unity government.

Reports on resolving disputes between the two rival factions vary from day to day, though both sides say they've accepted the Qatari-mediated agreement announced three weeks ago from Doha, Qatar.

On Thursday, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas met with Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo, the P.A. official Ma'an News Agency reported.

In the first meeting between them since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the two men reportedly discussed ways to reconcile their differences.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said peace talks between Israel and the P.A. are on hold until the outcome of the Fatah-Hamas negotiations becomes clear.

Netanyahu has said all along that Israel will not negotiate a peace agreement with a government that includes Hamas.

"It's either a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel," Netanyahu said. "It's one or the other. You can't have them both."

Meanwhile, the power struggle between the two factions continues, with both sides initiating new demands as old ones are resolved. For example, Hamas adamantly opposed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continuing in the post until elections could be held.

To remedy that disagreement, the Qatari-brokered deal proposed that Abbas serve as the interim government's prime minister. Hamas initially rejected the idea, saying it was illegal under Palestinian Basic Law to be both president and prime minister.

Now Hamas is willing to let the Palestinian Legislative Council decide the issue by a "vote of confidence." It also wants to appoint a Gaza-based deputy to Abbas, Ma'an reported.

But according to the report, Abbas rejected the proposal, saying it was unnecessary to vote for a caretaker government.

Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayyah predicted elections would not be held until life for Hamas members in the West Bank improved dramatically. 

"Can Hamas supporters in the West Bank live freely and go to the polls freely? The answer is no," al-Hayyah said.

Meanwhile, Issam Abu Dakka, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said Hamas "requirements" for appointing new ministers "might postpone the formation of a new government," Ma'an reported.

"Hamas wants to have 51 percent of ministers and wants to control three ministries: finance, interior and justice," Dakka said.

Another official said Hamas would retain "security" control of the Gaza Strip.

Since taking control of Gaza, the Islamist group has increasingly imposed strict Muslim lifestyle and dress on residents there.  

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.