Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
September 11, 2009 - 12:00am

Fatah welcomes a new Egyptian proposal aimed at solving its dispute with Hamas, a high-ranking Fatah official said on Thursday.

The Egyptian proposal has the support of the Hamas as well.

"Fatah has welcomed and accepted the latest proposal," said Jibril Rajoub, the newly-elected member of Fatah's Central Committee, who said that the proposal would bring the two rival parties closer to signing a "national unity agreement."

"President Mahmoud Abbas accepted it after holding consultations with Fatah leaders in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and abroad," Rajoub said, adding that he and a group of senior Fatah leaders were planning to visit the Gaza Strip soon for talks with Hamas leaders. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to find ways of ending an ongoing power struggle with the Hamas.

Earlier this week, sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post that the two parties were scheduled to sign a reconciliation accord under the auspices of the Egyptians before the end of this year.

The sources said that the breakthrough in the Hamas-Fatah talks came after the Islamic movement's leader, Khaled Mashaal, held talks in Cairo last weekend with senior Egyptian government officials.

On Thursday, Mashaal stopped at Cairo International Airport on his way home from Sudan. A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said that Mashaal met at the airport with Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, a senior official with Egypt's General Intelligence Service.

The two discussed latest developments related to Egypt's efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift and the case of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, the official told the Post without elaborating.

On Wednesday night, leaders of various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, were handed a draft of the latest Egyptian proposal for ending the crisis in the Palestinian arena.

The proposal, which has been accepted by both Fatah and Hamas, calls for holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories in the first half of 2010 and not in January of the same year as originally planned.

The initiative divides the Palestinian territories into 16 electoral districts, 11 in the West Bank and the remaining five in the Gaza Strip. The vote, according to the proposal, would be held under Arab and Western supervision to guarantee their honesty and fairness.

On the issue of security, the initiative envisages the establishment of a security committee that would consist of "professional" officers and which would be placed under the supervision of the Egyptians. The committee's main task would be to oversee the revamping of the Palestinian Authority security forces.

The Egyptians also want to see another committee, comprising representatives of all Palestinian factions, tasked with the mission of preparing for elections, reconciliation among warring factions and rebuilding houses that were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

Immediately after the signing of the reconciliation accord, both Hamas and Fatah would start releasing all "political" detainees.

Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said that Mashaal's discussions in Cairo were designed to show that the movement is keen on ending its differences with Fatah.

Bardaweel said that Mashaal warned during his talks that holding elections only in the West Bank would complicate matters and consolidate divisions among the Palestinians.

Bardaweel said that elections should be held only after Hamas and Fatah sign a reconciliation accord. He said that the Egyptians displayed "understanding" toward Hamas's positions, especially with regards to its demand that Fatah release all Hamas supporters held in West Bank jails.


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