(photo credit: AP [File])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the ruling Hamas agreed Wednesday to start talks on forming a broader government, based on a joint program that would include implicit recognition of Israel, officials said.
However, it is doubtful quick agreement could be reached on a coalition between Hamas and Abbas's more pragmatic Fatah movement. Even if such an alliance were to be formed, it might not win the recognition the international community has refused to grant a Hamas-only government.
The West has said it will not do business with the Palestinian Authority unless it explicitly recognizes Israel, renounces violence and backs previous peace agreements. Hamas has refused to change its militant stance, and even a more moderate platform of a Hamas-Fatah coalition would likely fall short of these conditions.
Abbas met Wednesday with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, and the two leaders decided to start negotiations on a coalition government.
"We have agreed to start discussions to form this government, based upon the National Unity Agreement," Haniyeh said, referring to the joint political platform the two had worked out earlier. The joint program includes the implicit recognition of Israel.
Haniyeh suggested that a national unity government would ease the international isolation of the Hamas government. "This will help lift the embargo imposed on the Palestinians, ease their suffering," he said.
He said he also expected the release of several Hamas Cabinet ministers and legislators who have been detained by Israel in recent week.
Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas government, said the release of the Hamas officials is a precondition for forming a broad coalition. Israel has given no sign it is willing to free the Hamas leaders.