Hamas supporters 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday promoted the idea of a Cabinet of technocrats as a way to ease crippling Western sanctions, but pledged not to force it on Hamas, who reacted coolly to the idea.
Abbas addressed reporters for more than an hour at his headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday evening. In his strongest endorsement yet of the technocrat idea of a Cabinet made up of professionals instead of politicians, he said it should be "considered seriously" as a way out of the current deadlock.
He said, however, that he would not move toward a technocrat government without Hamas approval.
Hamas: US trying to overthrow our government
Not since the 'Nakba' (op-ed)
"I prefer it as a solution, because it does solve the problem, but there should be an agreement how long it should serve," Abbas said.
Hamas, ruling with an absolute majority in the parliament, did not appear eager to adopt the idea.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said a broad-based coalition government is still the best option, adding, "if a national coalition government cannot shoulder the burden of meeting the demands of all our people, I don't think that a technocrat government can carry this responsibility."
The idea was endorsed earlier Tuesday by a group of academics, politicians and professionals representing all walks of life in Palestinian society, who called for the establishment of a transitional government consisting of independent figures to resolve the crisis between Fatah and Hamas.
The call, which was made at a press conference that was held in Ramallah under the title "Appeal for the Sake of Palestine," comes amid growing fears that the Fatah-Hamas dispute could spill over into civil war.
Sources close to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Tuesday that he was determined to take "real measures" to end the crisis, including the possibility of dissolving the parliament and calling new elections.
However, Abbas suffered a major setback on Monday when he discovered that he did not have the backing of a majority of the members of the Fatah central committee for such a move.
The committee was supposed to convene in the Jordanian capital of Amman, but the meeting was called off at the last minute due to differences between Abbas and many Fatah leaders over how to tackle the crisis with Hamas.
Fatah leaders welcomed the call for the establishment of a transitional government and expressed hope that Hamas would not turn down the initiative. Hamas, meanwhile, said it was studying the idea, stressing that the door remained open for the formation of a national unity government.
Dr. Mamdouh Aker, Commissioner General of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights, said at the press conference that the time had come for the Palestinians to get their act together and work toward achieving unity.
"We are calling for the establishment of a one-year transitional government that would address internal issues such as poverty and unemployment," he said. "The government will also be entrusted with halting the economic and social
deterioration in the Palestinian territories."
Aker added that this was the best solution for now, especially since it could take a long time to reach an agreement on a unity government. He urged Palestinians to back the initiative by signing a petition calling on Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to accept the transitional government idea.
Apart from the transitional government idea, the initiative also calls for the PLO to be in charge of conducting negotiations with Israel, ending lawlessness and anarchy, and reforming the Palestinian security forces.
"Because of the growing danger of internecine fighting, we call on all Palestinians to start making an effort to avoid civil war and put an end to the existing differences in the Palestinian arena," the initiative stated.
Hamas was the only group that did not send a representative to the press conference. Two Fatah legislators, Abdullah Abdullah and Rabiha Diab, were present, as well as representatives of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples' [Communist] Party.
"This is a brave and honest initiative that deserves the backing of all sectors and political factions," said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a Fatah spokesman and close aide to Abbas. "This is a good way to rid our people of the dangerous crisis brought on us by Hamas because of its failure to display political flexibility."
In a related development, the spokesman for the Hamas-led government on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on armed Palestinian groups, holding them responsible for the continued state of anarchy and lawlessness.
"Has violence become a culture implanted in our bodies and our flesh?" he asked in an article published in the PA-funded daily Al-Ayyam newspaper.
"We have surrendered to it until it has become the master and is obeyed everywhere, in the house, the neighborhood, the family, the clan, the faction and the university. We want to get rid of this lethal disease - cancer - that has destroyed our brains and paralyzed our hearts."
Hamad pointed out that 175 Palestinians have been killed in internal fighting since the beginning of this year. Addressing the armed groups, he wrote: "Please have mercy on us. We want to get rid of this monster that is living amongst us. Please don't kill the hope that's left in us."