Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a meeting for the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that Hamas has until Tuesday to join a new unity government.
Abbas’s ultimatum came during an interview with the Saudi TV network Al-Arabiya.
In order to join the government, Hamas and other Palestinian factions would have to accept the PLO’s political program, he said. Hamas and the PA have been holding consultations over the possibility of forming a new unity government.
The PA leadership insists that Palestinian factions wishing to join the proposed government must accept the PLO’s political program, including recognition of the two-state solution.
The PA also wants Hamas and other Palestinian factions to accept the three principles outlined by the Quartet – United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States – for the diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian government.
These principles are: a Palestinian state must recognize Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate; abide by previous diplomatic agreements; and renounce violence as a means of achieving goals.
Hamas officials have rejected the PA’s demand to accept the PLO’s program and the Quartet’s three principles as a prerequisite for joining a unity government.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official who is in charge of the negotiations with Hamas, was supposed to travel to the Gaza Strip at the beginning of this week for talks on the unity government. However, the visit was called off, apparently in light of Hamas’s negative response.
A senior Palestinian official in Ramallah said Abbas was determined to carry out a cabinet reshuffle if Hamas does not change its position by Tuesday. The official claimed Abbas was hoping to form a new “national unity” government that would consist of representatives of various Palestinian factions, including Hamas.
“The president prefers to establish a national unity government,” the official said.
“But Hamas does not want to comply with the demands of the Quartet. Nor does it want to accept the PLO’s political program.”
Earlier this week, Hamas spokesmen said they have three conditions for being part of a unity government: the formation of a temporary leadership that would supervise any cabinet reshuffle; the absorption of Hamas employees in the new cabinet; and seeking the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the new government.
Hamas has also emphasized that it would never be part of any government that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence.