Hamas, Fatah complete coalition talks

Abbas and Haniyeh seek PA approval for new gov't; Fatah activist dies of wounds.

Abbas Haniyeh deal 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Haniyeh deal 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
The proposed new Palestinian Authority unity government will be brought on Saturday before the Palestinian Legislative Council for a vote of confidence, Fatah and Hamas officials announced on Wednesday. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah informed the acting speaker of the PLC, Ahmed Bahar, that they will present the unity government to the PLC during a session that will be held in Gaza City. The two sides refrained from announcing the political program of the unity government. However, a Fatah leader said that Abbas, who is scheduled to deliver a speech during the session, will set the political guidelines of the unity government. "The president will make it clear that the new government must respect all the agreements that were signed with Israel and abide by all Arab and international resolutions concerning the Palestinian issue," he said, pointing out that Abbas will not call on the unity government to explicitly recognize Israel or renounce terrorism as demanded by the Quartet. The Hamas-dominated PLC is expected to approve the government, which will be the 11th Palestinian government since the establishment of the PA in 1994. But shortly after the two parties announced that they had reached an agreement on the composition of the unity government, fighting erupted between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in Bet Lahyia in the northern Gaza Strip. A Fatah Party activist died Thursday of wounds he sustained in the shootout with Hamas gunmen, Palestinian security officials reported. PA security sources said the clashes began when Hamas gunmen opened fire at a car that was carrying Samih al-Madhoun, a top commander of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Madhoun, who escaped unharmed, managed to kidnap three Hamas activists who were in the area. In response, Hamas militiamen kidnapped four Fatah members. The attack on Madhoun is apparently linked to Tuesday night's killing of Ala Hadad, a top Hamas commander, who was gunned down in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Both Abbas and Haniyeh expressed hope that the formation of the unity government would end tensions between Fatah and Hamas and pave the way for ending international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians after Hamas came to power. Abbas, who is currently in the Gaza Strip, held a series of meetings with Haniyeh over the past few days in a bid to resolve the dispute over the identity of the new interior minister in the unity coalition. Under the terms of the "national unity agreement" that was reached in Mecca last month, Hamas is entitled to choose an independent candidate for the post. But Abbas and his Fatah faction have rejected Hamas's preferred candidate, Hamoudeh Jarwan, forcing the movement to search for other candidates. On Wednesday Hamas came up with two new names: Hani Kawassmeh, a top official with the Interior Ministry from Hebron, and Dr. Fadel Abu Hayen, a psychologist from the Gaza Strip. A senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas was inclined to agree to the appointment of Kawasmeh as interior minister. He said Kawassmeh, who is not affiliated with Hamas, was acceptable "because of his good relations with both Fatah and Hamas and because he belongs to a large and respected clan from the West Bank." It's not clear, however, whether Kawassmeh will move to the Gaza Strip or stay in the West Bank. Outgoing Interior Minister Said Siam of Hamas is based in the Gaza Strip, where he maintains control over Hamas's paramilitary "Executive Force." Abbas and Haniyeh are expected to announce the make-up of the new coalition at a joint press conference in Gaza City on Thursday. Although Hamas has not yet published the names of its ministers, Fatah officials said the coalition, which will be headed by Haniyeh, will include the following ministers: • 1. Azzam al-Ahmed [Fatah] - deputy prime minister • 2. Mahmoud al-Aloul [Fatah] - minister of agriculture • 3. Taysir Abu Snaineh [Fatah] - minister for prisoners affairs • 4. Radwan al-Akhras [Fatah] - minister of health • 5. Khuloud Duaibes [Independent] minister of state • 6. Ziad Abu Amr [Independent] minister of foreign affairs • 7. Bassam al-Salhi [People's Party] minister of culture • 8. Salam Fayyad [Third Way] - minister of finance • 9. Hani Kawassmeh - minister of interior •10. Mustafa Barghouti [Independent Palestine] minister of information