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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to resume talks in Gaza City this weekend with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over the unity government idea amid reports that new differences had erupted between Fatah and Hamas.
The two sides, it turns out, have yet to agree on the distribution of portfolios in the unity government and on the identity of the new prime minister. Hamas is demanding at least 10 ministries, including the interior, finance and foreign affairs portfolios, while Fatah is insisting on receiving at least seven ministries.
The differences also center on the political platform of the unity government and whether it should recognize Israel's right to exist. While Hamas continues to stick to its position that the unity government should not recognize Israel, Abbas and Fatah want the platform to contain phrases that implicitly recognize Israel, such as a reference to the Arab peace plan of 2002, which talks about a two-state solution.
Moreover, Hamas is demanding assurances from Abbas that the international community will, after the formation of the unity government, lift financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinians. Abbas has thus far failed to obtain such a promise from the US and other members of the Quartet.
Another obstacle that is hindering the unity government talks is Hamas's demand that Israel release all Hamas ministers and legislators who were arrested after the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit last June.
PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized Hamas for declaring that the unity government will not recognize Israel. "We're not asking Hamas to accept the two-state solution or the agreements that were signed between the PLO and Israel," he said. "We're aksing the new government to do so."
Erekat said the statements made by some Hamas leaders over the past few days were "harmful, especially in the wake of efforts to lift the international sanction imposed on our people. If the Hamas leaders are issuing such statements, why bother with the efforts to remove the sanctions?"