The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this morning that France has been pushing the European Union to accept a Palestinian unity government including Hamas. The government would have had to accept the principles of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Sources told the paper that Israel had successfully stymied the measure, saying it would weaken it in its struggle against the Islamist group, which the international community has boycotted financially and diplomatically since it won 2006 Palestinian elections.
France's rejoinder at the Brussels meeting that ended last night was to introduce ambiguous wording that does not require forces controlled by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah crossing. This is a nod to Hamas, which sees Abbas as trying to regain a foothold in the Gaza Strip at the behest of the international community.
At stake is the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, estimated at some $2 billion. Without the opening of the crossings, cement and other goods will not be allowed into Gaza by Israel. Hamas wants the crossing opened, but rejects aspects of the previous agreement, brokered by the US. Hamas seeks to gain recognition for its authority in Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is trying to head off the challenge to its governance.
A previous unity government where the two factions shared power was boycotted by the international community and ultimately fell apart.