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Despite Israel's opposition, US sees 'opportunity' in Palestinian reconciliation

From left to right in front row, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, Head of Palestinian General Intelligence Majid Faraj, Head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and an Egyptian mediator hold
(AP Photo/Prime Minister Office)
US determined to see Palestinian Authority reinstated in Gaza as step towards opening negotiations with Israel

The United States is continuing to back Egyptian-led efforts to reconcile Palestinian political rivals Fatah and Hamas, seeing it as an "opportunity" benefitting both Palestinians and Israelis, according to a senior White House official quoted by the Haaretz daily on Sunday.

"Egypt has helped us crack open a door to Gaza that didn’t exist a few weeks ago, and we see it as a possible opportunity," the official said, speaking to Haaretz on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject.

"Israelis and Palestinians are so much better off if we can make something out of it," he added.

The official reiterated the US position that it expects any eventual Palestinian unity government to disarm the Islamist Hamas movement, but said that there is no expectation that this will happen immediately.

The first goal of the Trump administration, the official said, is to see the Palestinian Authority reinstated in the Gaza Strip, with a reconciliation agreement with Hamas one way of accomplishing this.

The reconciliation process may also serve to advance another of Trump's top foreign policy goals -- advancing a peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians within the coming months.

Israel has already made clear that it would not hold diplomatic negotiations with any Palestinian unity government unless it met a number of preconditions including the dismantling of Hamas' military wing, renouncement of violence and the recognition of the State of Israel.

Despite Israel's opposition, the White House remains committed to backing reconciliation efforts, seeing the reinstatement of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza as a positive step towards overcoming a major hurdle in eventual peace negotiations.

"We want to see if this is really an opportunity or not," the senior White House official told Haaretz. "There is no reason to throw it into the garbage without investigating it. We are not naïve, but why wouldn’t we want to see if it is an opportunity?"

"Gaza is a key complication in getting a peace deal and it will remain a complication during the negotiations, but it has to be fixed if we are to succeed," the official said. "In order to get a peace deal, the PA needs to be in control. All terrorists will have to disarm, but it won’t happen overnight. Everybody knows that."

Trump's specially appointed adviser on the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, is presently visiting the region and has been in frequent contact with senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner regarding recent developments.

Greenblatt made a brief visit to Cairo on Thursday and held meetings with senior Egyptian intelligence officials involved in the Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

He is due to continue discussions on the matter with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem on Sunday.

 See also:

Netanyahu says Palestinian reconciliation deal makes peace 'much harder'

Hamas delegation kicks off Iran visit amid Palestinian unity negotiations

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