Hamas retracted its original agreement to include the 2002 Arab peace initiative in the proposed national unity government with Fatah, party officials said Tuesday.  Hamas officials are against the initiative’s explicitness, preferring a more general presentation, according to Salah Bardawil, head of Hamas’s parliamentary faction.  This news is disappointing for Abbas’ Fatah party, which viewed the inclusion of the initiative as a significant achievement. 

According to Fatah, Hamas’s decision to exclude the Arab peace initiative is a sign that officials in Palestine are bending to the will of Khaled Meshal, the head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus.  Fatah officials were primarily concerned that the US would view the varying positions as unreliable and be less willing to support a national unity government. 

However, Hamas is not the only party facing internal divisions.  Fatah members are not in complete agreement among themselves.  In contrast to many Fatah members, Abbas supports a national unity government; full support has been difficult to achieve.

Despite these few setbacks, some headway has been made between the two parties.  Hamas said it would accept previous PLO agreements that protect Palestinian interests, one of three stipulations forced on Hamas since its victory.  Fatah remains skeptical though, claiming that Hamas is not ready to accept these agreements.

Talks between the two parties are expected to continue once Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returns from New York where meetings concerning the Palestinian Israeli conflict are taking place at the UN Headquarters this week.  The Quartet will meet Thursday to discuss recent political developments and the topic has made it onto this week’s UN Security Council’s agenda. Thus far, President Abbas has met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Monday and with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday.

U.S. President Bush has so far been against the formation of a national unity government unless Hamas accepts the three conditions put forth by the international Quartet: recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism, and accepting previous agreements.  His primary concern is the identity of the partner on the Palestinian side.  But because President Abbas is considered one of the “voices of moderation,” according to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, the U.S. “would continue to work with him.” 

Sourced from Haaretz Online