JERUSALEM, Israel -- To some, E.U. foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton's call for reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority's Fatah faction and its rival, Hamas, doesn't come as a surprise. Just a few years ago, British parliamentarians called to open dialogue with Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Islamist terror group.
Hamas and Fatah have "reconciled" many times in the past but it is always short-lived. Reconciliation would be necessary for any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal to hold. Without it, Hamas could just accelerate terror attacks and ruin any agreement. But some say that Hamas and Fatah have the same goal: the ultimate destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. They just have different ways of going about it. Hamas prefers direct threats and violence, while Fatah applies a more subtle phased plan.
Ashton's office published a statement saying reconciliation between the two factions is "an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two-state solution [with Israel]," following a meeting with P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Agence France Presse reported.
Abbas has been in Europe this week lobbying for a boycott of Israelis living in "occupied Palestinian territory," meaning anywhere outside the pre-1967 armistice lines.
The two rival factions formed a unity coalition in March 2007 following Saudi-sponsored reconciliation talks in January 2007, which produced the Mecca Accords. At the time, Abbas appointed Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh his prime minister.
Three months later, in June 2007, Hamas sent P.A. security forces fleeing from Gaza in a bloody military coup. Within days, Abbas dismantled the short-lived unity government, forming an emergency government and replacing Haniyeh with Salam Fayyad.
Since then, the two rival factions have failed to reconcile despite efforts by neighboring Arab countries, including Egypt, Yemen and Jordan, to bring the two sides back together.
The West thinks of Abbas and his government in the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) as more moderate than the outspoken Islamist leadership of Hamas.
Last weekend, Haniyeh spoke out, as is his habit, against the "Zionist occupiers" of Palestinian land. Haniyeh reiterated that Hamas would never accept Israel's right to exist and calling the Jewish state a threat to Jerusalem and the al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount.