Palestinians fail to reach cease-fire agreement

JERUSALEM — Recent talks between the Palestinian Authority and the various Palestinian factions failed to arrive either at a cooperation agreement or a cease-fire with Israel — but they did demonstrate the ongoing power shift in Palestinian politics.

For a series of talks in Cairo, the Egyptians summoned 12 Palestinian factions, including fundamentalist terror groups and more secular hard-liners such as the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command of Ahmed Jibril.

The five days of talks were designed to bridge differences within the Palestinian political camp as a precondition for a possible cease-fire with Israel.

Shortly after the talks ended, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would be the first Arab leader to host Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The invitation to Sharon is part of Mubarak's initiative to solidify Egypt's role as a key intermediary in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Though the latest round of Palestinian talks in Cairo again ended unsuccessfully, Mubarak apparently believes that a successful visit with Sharon would allow him to further press the Palestinian groups for an agreement — especially with Hamas, which has been reluctant to accept the kind of compromises Mubarak is demanding.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would seem to have an interest in stabilizing the internal Palestinian scene. But Hamas, which has seen its standing dramatically enhanced in the Cairo talks, demanded a 40 percent share of power in Palestinian Authority institutions.

Arafat, whose control of the Palestinian Authority already is shaky, didn't agree to Hamas' condition.

With Palestinian elections postponed, a draft constitution shelved and promised reforms to the Palestinian Authority on hold, the radical groups had hoped to adopt a plan calling for members of each Palestinian faction — including Islamists, Communists and radicals — to serve as representatives in the Palestinian Authority.