(photo credit: Associated Press)
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have stepped up their efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian Authority, PA and Hamas officials said on Sunday.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is in Saudi Arabia for talks with government officials on the crisis with PA President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, while Hamas delegations have been invited to Qatar and other Arab countries that are acting as mediators between the two parties, the officials added.
Mashaal is also expected to visit Qatar on his way back from Saudi Arabia. On Saturday night Abbas phoned the emir of Qatar and urged him to resume mediation efforts to resolve the impasse.
The crisis, meanwhile, has been put on hold as Muslims celebrate on Monday the three-day Id al-Fitr feast marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are hoping to achieve an agreement between Fatah and Hamas on the formation of a national unity government with a political platform that satisfies the demands of the international community, including recognition of Israel's right to exist. The two countries are also hoping that their efforts will lead to the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since June.
"These mediation efforts are designed to prevent a further escalation between Fatah and Hamas," explained a top PA official in Ramallah. "Qatar and Saudi Arabia are hoping that an agreement will avoid a scenario where Abbas is forced to fire the [Hamas] government and call early elections."
Ahmed Youssef, political advisor to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said Qatar has decided to introduce some changes to a six-point initiative it presented to Hamas and Fatah earlier this month.
"Qatar has amended the initiative and it may present it again to the Palestinians after Id al-Fitr," he said. He said Hamas, which had rejected the initiative, would give its final response to the Qatari initiative after the feast.
Hamas is opposed to two points of the Qatari initiative which call for mutual recognition with Israel and renouncing violence.
According to Yousef, Qatar has been trying to convince the US "to accept a revised form that excludes the clause which refers to mutual recognition."
He also reiterated Hamas's fierce opposition to Abbas's proposal to establish a one-year transitional government of technocrats to replace the Hamas government to end the financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinians and to resume peace talks.
"The only solution for the crisis is to form a national unity government based on the prisoners' document," he added, referring to the controversial initiative made earlier this year by leaders of some Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Abbas, who is under heavy pressure from his Fatah party to fire the Hamas government, has repeatedly threatened to take a "decisive" decision to end the crisis, hinting that he would either form a new government or call new elections. His aides said he has twice postponed over the past week a planned speech in which he was scheduled to announce the dismissal of the Hamas government.
Jamal Tirawi, a Fatah legislator and spokesman in the West Bank, on Sunday accused Hamas of using the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to smuggle heavy weapons and millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip. "Hamas does not care about the fate of the Palestinian people," he said. "They are smuggling all types of weapons, including heavy machine guns, into the Gaza Strip. They are also bringing a lot of cash."