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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Fatah is prepared to join a Hamas-led coalition, even if the Islamic movement does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Hatem Abdel Kader, a top Fatah official from Jerusalem, announced on Tuesday.
Abdel Kader is the first Fatah official to publicly voice support for joining a Hamas cabinet.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said he did not rule out the possibility that Fatah would eventually join the new Hamas cabinet. However, he said that no final decision has been taken in this regard.
"Fatah is not asking Hamas to recognize Israel," Abdel Kader explained. "This is Hamas's own business and it should not be part of an agreement on forming a national unity cabinet."
He said what was important now was that Hamas abide by all the international agreements that were signed by the PLO and the PA.
"We must reach an agreement on a joint political vision for the future," he added. "We must define the nature of the conflict with Israel, and I believe that a long-term cease fire with Israel is what we need at this stage."
Abdel Kader's remarks are in sharp contrast with statements made by other Fatah officials over the past few weeks against participating in a Hamas cabinet. Many Fatah leaders expressed strong opposition to joining a Hamas-led coalition, saying they preferred to sit in the opposition and focus on rehabilitating Fatah.
In Gaza City, Abbas formally asked Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to form the new cabinet. The request was made during a meeting in which Abbas handed Haniyeh a letter of appointment entrusting him with forming a new cabinet within five weeks.
Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders have been holding talks with representatives of various factions in a bid to persuade them to join the new cabinet. So far, only the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has accepted the Hamas invitation.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders expressed deep concern over reports in the Arab and Western media according to which some Fatah leaders had joined hands with Israel and the US to undermine the new Hamas administration.
The reports claimed that top Fatah leaders, including former PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub, were plotting with Israelis and Americans to thwart Hamas's efforts to establish a new cabinet.
"These conspiracies and plots, which are being concocted day and night, are a form of aggression on the Palestinian people's democratic will," said Adnan Asfour, a senior Hamas leader in Nablus. "The fact that some senior Fatah leaders are involved in these conspiracies is sad. The Palestinians will resist these attempts. When the Palestinians voted for Hamas, they voted in favor of defiance and resolve."
Abdel Kader said he was unaware of secret meetings that were taking place between Fatah officials and Israeli and American officials. "I doubt that these reports are true," he said. "But if they prove to be true, this would be a catastrophe for all the Palestinians.
"Hamas is no longer a resistance movement, but a ruling party. Any attempt to foil Hamas is tantamount to high treason," he added.
In another development that could mar relations between Fatah and Hamas, the new Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik decided on Tuesday to cancel a number of appointments that were made by his predecessor after the parliamentary elections.
The decision drew sharp criticism from Fatah legislators, who accused Dweik of acting in violation of the law.
"These decisions reflect a mentality of dictatorship," said Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah faction in parliament. "They could disrupt the work of the council because the Speaker has no right to rescind decisions that were taken by his predecessor."
Tensions were running high in the council on Tuesday after legislator Ibrahim Khraisheh accused Dweik of using force to evict him from his office.
Khraisheh, who serves as treasurer of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Dweik and 10 men walked into his office in the morning and kicked him out by force.
"The new Speaker is resorting to methods of intimidation against parliament employees," Khraisheh said. "He and his men are threatening all the workers."