Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, bitterly divided for four years, are close to forming a coalition government that could renew the peace process.

The reconciliation was facilitated by Egypt, and would bring about popular elections within a year. Fatah, the more moderate party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was ousted from the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas won parliamentary elections. Fatah has continued to govern the West Bank as peace with Israel remains elusive. The rift between Hamas and Fatah had thrown yet another stumbling block in front of peace, as Israeli leaders said they couldn’t be sure an agreement would represent both groups of Palestinians. — KDG


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the possible reconciliation points to the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and raises the chance that Hamas could end up dominating the West Bank. His remarks were released in an e-mailed statement.

Hamas, which rejects peace talks with Israel and refuses to recognize the Jewish state, was founded in 1987 as an offshoot from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2007, Abbas’ security forces, given passage into the Gaza Strip by Israel, tried to oust the Hamas government from Gaza. Hamas, which is branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, routed Fatah.

The Israeli army and Egypt both sealed off Gaza’s borders after Hamas took over, cutting off most civilian traffic and restricting trade with the territory. Israel has maintained a ground and sea blockade around Gaza ever since.

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