Abbas seeks gov't of independents, academics

"National salvation government" comes out of frustration from failed national unity government.

abbas 298  (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
After failing to persuade Hamas to agree to the establishment of a "national-unity government," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now considering forming a "national-salvation government" consisting of independent figures and academics, PA officials here revealed Tuesday. They said Abbas had reached the conclusion that Hamas was not interested in his proposal to establish a joint Fatah-Hamas government. They added that Abbas was enraged by Hamas's conditions for establishing a national-unity government, particularly its demand that Israel release all Hamas ministers and legislators who were arrested over the past two months. Abbas, they said, has also rejected Hamas's demand that such a government be headed by a Hamas representative. "President Abbas is seriously considering the possibility of declaring a national-salvation government that would work toward ending international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians ever since Hamas won the parliamentary election earlier this year," one official told The Jerusalem Post. "Our top priority now is to convince the international community to resume financial aid to the Palestinian people, and the national-salvation government is the only way out of the crisis." Another official said former PA finance minister Salaam Fayad, head of the independent Third Way List, was being touted as a possible candidate to head the new government. Hanan Ashrawi may be given the Foreign Ministry, while Nasr Youssef, the former interior minister, may return to his job, he added. Abbas was hoping that Hamas would accept his offer to form a joint government on the basis of a document drafted by leaders of some Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails that calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state only in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem without explicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners who signed the document have since withdrawn their support for it, accusing Abbas of exploiting it to undermine the Hamas government. Abbas's decision to form a national-salvation government is seen as an admission that the prisoners' document is no longer relevant. Damascus-based Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk lashed out at Abbas for abandoning the prisoners' document and questioned his right to form a new government under the current circumstances. "Any new government will require the approval of the [Hamas- dominated] Palestinian Legislative Council," he said. "Abbas's moves are in violation of the Palestinian national consensus and the democratic choice of the Palestinians." PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in Gaza City that he remained committed to the idea of establishing a national-unity government that would comprise several Palestinian factions, including Fatah. "We support efforts to establish a national unity government," he said, denying that head set "impossible" conditions for establishing such a government. "We are open to any faction that wants to join the [Hamas-controlled] government," he said during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet. "We are keen on strengthening national unity so that we could end the embargo on our people." Haniyeh accused Israel and the US of working to undermine his government. Commenting on the arrest of several Hamas officials in the West Bank, he said that Israel was trying to undermine the democratically elected government so that the conflict would become a Palestinian-Palestinian problem and not one between the Palestinians and Israel. In another development in the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on Tuesday, calling for establishing an Islamic caliphate in the PA territories and the rest of the world. It was the first demonstration of its kind since the establishment of the PA more than a decade ago. The demonstration was organized by the Tahrir [Liberation] Party to mark the 85th anniversary of the end of the Ottoman Empire. The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for the elimination of Israel and for the restoring the Islamic caliphate. Abu Nour, one of the leaders of the party, said he was impressed by the large number of people who participated in the demonstration and called for abolishing all "treacherous" agreements signed by Israel and the PLO.