Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Abbas, Haniyeh to meet again to discuss formation of unity gov't

By Haaretz Correspondents

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas are expected to meet Wednesday in a fresh bid to iron out differences over the formation of a unity government.

Abbas and Haniyeh failed to reach an agreement during a Monday meeting in the Gaza Strip described as a "decisive" discussion on the creation of a Palestinian government of national unity and the identity of the man who will lead it.

A spokesman for Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Abbas and Haniyeh will continue their meetings Wednesday and Thursday in order to complete the negotiations.

At the start of the meeting, Abbas informed Haniyeh that Israel would begin the withdrawal of its forces from the town of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip. During the six days the Israel Defense Forces operated in the town, 53 Palestinians and one soldier were killed.

Palestinian sources reported Monday night that the IDF had already begun withdrawing some of its forces. However, senior officers said that smaller scale operations would continue in other parts of the Strip. They added that the operation in Beit Hanun achieved its objectives and struck a heavy blow to militant groups there.

During their meeting Monday night, Haniyeh presented the current health minister in his government, Basim Naeem, as a candidate for the post of prime minister. However, Palestinian sources said Abbas refused and expressed his disappointment at Haniyeh's proposal.

A spokesman for Abbas' Fatah in the Gaza Strip, Maher Makdad, told Haaretz Monday night that Abbas' opposition to Naeem's candidacy had been expected. There is an agreement in principle between Fatah and Hamas on the establishment of a government of experts, Makdad said.

Palestinian sources said that the radical wing of Hamas is opposed to another candidate, Jamal al-Khudary, currently the minister of communication in the Haniyeh government.

Al-Khudary is considered to be an independent candidate, with leanings toward Hamas, but also with ties to Abbas' son.

The meetings between the two sides in recent days resulted in agreement on the creation of a government of technocrats, with no political figures. Each party, depending on its strength in the Palestinian Legislative Council, will appoint professionals and academics to the cabinet.

A special committee comprised of representatives of all the factions will determine the specific ministries these individuals are most appropriate to manage.

Palestinian sources reported Monday that during the negotiations Hamas demanded guarantees from Abbas that the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority would be lifted if the organization would agree to a national unity government of technocrats and a prime minister not affiliated to Hamas.

However, in a recent meeting between U.S. envoys Elliott Abrams and David Welch, and Abbas, it was made clear to the Palestinian leader that the Bush administration is unwilling to budge from its demands that the Palestinian government should meet the three prerequisites posed by the Quartet (recognition of Israel, relinquishing violence, and acceptance of previous Israel-PLO accords).

So far, Fatah and Hamas agreed that the political platform of the new government will be based on the prisoners' manifesto, a document authored by leading Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, which hints at recognition of Israel and a two-state solution.

1 comment:

William said...

Given today's events in Beit Hanoun - this is finished - COMPLETELY DEAD!