Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hamas and Fatah as well as smaller Palestinian factions have agreed to form five committees to address security issues and the formation of an election commission. This should lead to the formation of a national unity government (negotiators pictured). The committees are set to begin work 10 March and complete their work at the end of the month.
As a first sign of reconciliation, on the eve of the talks both sides have agreed to free their respective prisoners.
In November of last year Egypt had originally tried to promote intra-Palestinian reconciliation but failed when Hamas withdrew at the last minute, accusing Fatah of arresting its members in the West Bank.
The breakthrough came ahead of an international donor conference in Egypt that hopes to raise money for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip by Israel's 22-day war on the territory.
Western countries are among the donors but they have resisted helping Hamas, a movement deemed terrorist by the United States and Europe.
Hamas had however benefited from the war with Israel, this according to opinion polls in the territories reported by Israeli daily Haaretz. A probable exchange of abducted Israeli solider Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners should further boost its prestige.
In the Israeli army’s current review of its performance during the war, an encouraging picture is emerging in terms of its professionalism, control over units, aerial assistance to ground forces, quality of intelligence and logistics compared to war against Hizbollah.
However, at the diplomatic level the major damage Cast Lead did was in legitimising Hamas as the ruler of the Gaza Strip.
The paper notes that on the eve of a visit by the new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead of “coming to talk to Israel about the Iranian threat,” she “will focus on the problems of the Palestinians in Gaza. That might be the greatest damage of all.”