Ma'an News Agency
November 5, 2010 - 12:00am

Officials commenting on the latest unity rumors say the issue of a re-hauled security service amalgamating the West Bank and Gaza units remains the final stumbling block to inter-party reconciliation.

Representative of independent officials seeking unity Yaser Al-Wadieyah said he expected Hamas and Fatah officials in Damascus to discuss the final arrangements of the security issue, saying all other files were all but resolved.

The details, he added, revolved around finding an acceptable formula in the creation of a higher security committee, and setting terms for the transitional period while the committee assumes control, and as sides prepare to go to elections.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said on Friday, shortly after the arrival of reconciliation supporter Munib Al-Masry into Gaza for a three-day visit, that rumors fresh meetings would be set between Fatah and Hamas leaders in Damascus were true.

The October meetings between the parties were sidelined by a diplomatic scuffle between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Syrian officials at the October Arab League meetings in Libya.

On Thursday, Hamas spokesman Zami Abu Zuhri said the meeting was set for 9 November, saying the date would be "decisive," adding that the party supported the signing of the Egyptian proposal.

The newest effort, Barhoum said, would be the crowning achievement after the meeting between Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash'al and Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman set for the second week in November. The meeting will follow Suleiman's talks with Israeli officials, who he met with in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

According to Barhoum, Suleiman and Mash'al will discuss lasting disagreements on the shape and character of the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member, and the make-up of a unified security service.

With the close of those files, Barhoum said, the obstacles to unity would be surmounted and the Egyptian proposal ratified "based on what will come out of the Damascus meeting, and a Palestinian understanding document added to the Egyptian proposal as a reference paper."

He said all parties would be expected to then sign the proposal, signed by Fatah in October 2009. Hamas refused to sign the paper at the time, citing a Fatah move to postpone discussion of the Goldstone report on possible war crimes committed during Israel's war on Gaza. Hamas said they could not sign the document until Fatah rectified the mistake, but did not sigh after the report was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

The proposal was based on eight rounds of talks held between Fatah and Hamas officials in Cairo in 2009. It resolved core issues like the elections, and whether votes would be proportional or based on region, the make-up of a transitional government, the program of that government and issues around mutual prisoners releases.

Blaming American and European intervention, Barhoum said the central obstacle to the reunification of security forces was because "security departments in the West Bank are totally different from their counterparts in Gaza, what we need is to rebuild and restructure these departments in both places based on professional criteria and implemented according to the law, avoiding partisan behavior.

Independents support unity

Independent figure and businessman Munib Al-Masri spoke to Ma'an on Thursday evening, ahead of his arrival in Gaza, where he said he would attempt to pave the way for unity talks in Damascus.

Al-Masri, a Nablus billionaire and head of the independent movement to end Palestinian division, said he would speak with Hamas leaders including Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and hoped the next unity discussions would yield reconciliation, finally surmounting lasting disagreements on the shape and character of the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member, and the make-up of a unified security service.

"All factions are working to overcome the remaining obstacles," Al-Masri said.

The philanthropist said it had not been delegated by any party to lead talks, but that the move came from motivation within the independent community in Palestine. Al-Masri said he would meet family and friends during his three-day stay in the Gaza Strip.

"We must all contribute to reconciliation; Hamas and Fatah must recognize its necessity and work through sensitive issues, they must match the efforts being made by others who support the Palestinian national project." However, Al-Masri said his meetings in Gaza would be limited to Hamas and Fatah officials, with no other factions present.

"The path of conciliation is on the route to the end of occupation," Al-Masri said.

Hamas officials have said lately that the Egyptian proposal needed amendments, and that it failed to meet the requirements of the party.

"I hope unity can be achieved, I hope we ratify the Egyptian proposal, because for Palestinians conciliation is not an option, it is a requirement," Al-Masri said.


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