mohammed shabir mirror.
(photo credit: AP)
The Hamas-controlled Palestinian government will resign within two or three days to make way for a new unity government that could help end a punishing Western aid boycott and resume long-frozen peace talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian negotiator said Friday.
The negotiator took part Thursday in a nighttime meeting in Gaza where Palestinian Authority Chairman President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas pressed forward with efforts to bring their rival factions together. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not public. The two leaders were set to meet again Friday.
Despite the reported progress, Abbas has said he hopes to tie unity efforts to a broader deal that would see Israel release Palestinian prisoners, including several jailed Hamas Cabinet ministers, in return for the release of a captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalt soldier. Slow progress on such a deal could delay the creation of the new government.
Formation of a moderate Cabinet to replace the one headed by Hamas is an important plank in a new peace initiative offered Thursday by France and Spain, aimed at stopping constant Israel-Palestinian violence and moving toward peace negotiations.
The concept is to replace the Cabinet of Hamas ministers with independent experts linked to, but not members of, the two movements. Abbas and his Palestine Liberation Organization would be charged with handling peace negotiations, while the Cabinet would deal with the daily affairs of the Palestinian areas.
The sides have already agreed in principle on a compromise candidate for prime minister: Mohammed Shabir, 60, a US-educated microbiologist with ties to both Hamas and Fatah. At Thursday's meeting, Abbas assured Haniyeh that Shabir enjoyed broad international acceptance, the negotiator said.
The object is to satisfy Western demands for a Palestinian leadership that recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous peace deals. At stake is vital foreign aid - hundreds of millions of dollars a year that have kept the Palestinian Authority afloat for the past decade.