Fatah has agreed in principle to join a Hamas-led cabinet, Azzam al-Ahmed, chairman of Fatah's parliamentary list, announced on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a Hamas legislator announced that his movement was planning to introduce the Islamic sharia into the law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, especially the penal law.
The proposed law means that all women would be required to cover their heads in public places and those who commit adultery may be stoned to death. It also means that some convicted murderers may be beheaded in public squares.
Ahmed was speaking to reporters during a joint press conference in Gaza City with Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. The two met at Zahar's home in the context of Hamas's efforts to form a broad coalition that would bring together as many factions as possible.
The meeting was the first of its kind since Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas formally entrusted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with forming the new cabinet.
"Fatah is seriously considering joining a Hamas cabinet," Ahmed said. "We haven't rejected the idea, but neither have we accepted it. We are seriously studying it."
He said, however, that Fatah was inclined to join the new cabinet only after agreeing on a joint working program with Hamas. He added that the two sides had agreed on most of the political and economic issues concerning the Palestinians, including the need to implement major reforms in the Palestinian Authority.
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator who participated in the talks with Ahmed and other Fatah representatives, said that while the two parties agreed on internal issues, there was still a need to reach an agreement on the future of the peace process with Israel.
"The main problem is with the agreements that were signed by the PLO and Israel," he said. "Hamas has its own stance regarding whether we should abide by these agreements."
Bardawil said Hamas was eager to include Fatah in the new cabinet. "We want to form a broad coalition with as many factions as possible," he said. "For us, Fatah's participation in the cabinet is very important."
Ahmed Abu Halbiyeh, a newly-elected Hamas legislator, said and he and many of his colleagues had plans to replace the existing law with the sharia teachings. "The Palestinian Authority's Basic Law is anyway based on the sharia," he noted. "We must reactivate this phrase when passing new laws."
Ribhiyeh Diab, a female legislator representing Fatah, scoffed at Halbiyeh's announcement, saying he apparently does not know where he's living.
"First the Palestinian Legislative Council should discuss this issue," she said. "And in order to impose such laws you need the support of at least two-thirds of the council members and I'm not sure that Hamas has such a majority. We are also Muslims and no one has the right to change any law without referring to the council."
Jihad Abu Zneid, another female legislator from Jerusalem, dismissed Habliyeh's announcement as "meaningless."
"He can say whatever he wants," she said. "Hamas does not have a monopoly on our laws."
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