Abbas takes steps to keep security control

PA Chairman to appoint new security chiefs, asks Hamas to form cabinet; PFLP agrees to join Hamas coalition.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is planning to appoint new security chiefs in a bid to maintain control over the PA security forces after Hamas forms the new cabinet, PA officials said Monday. The revelation came as Abbas met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City and asked him to form the cabinet. Haniyeh heads Hamas's Change and Reform List, the largest faction in parliament. Source close to Hamas said a formal request to Haniyeh would be delivered Tuesday. According to the officials, Abbas had already decided on two appointments. They said Rashid Abu Shabak, commander of the Preventative Security Force in the Gaza Strip, would be named overall commander of internal security. Sakher Bsaisso, a top Fatah official from the Gaza Strip, was expected to be appointed commander of the crossing points and borders. "President Abbas is planning to appoint new heads to other security forces," one official told The Jerusalem Post. "The Palestinian security forces remain under his power and this is his prerogative." Another official said Abbas's move was designed to "create new facts on the ground" before Hamas completed the formation of its cabinet. "If Hamas thinks that we're going to give them control over the security forces, they are mistaken," he said. "President Abbas will remain the commander-in-chief of all the security forces." Many PA security commanders are worried that Hamas might try to take control over the security forces. In meetings with Abbas over the past few weeks, the security commanders - who are all members of Fatah - announced that they would not allow Hamas to interfere with their work. Meanwhile, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) became the first Palestinian group to agree to join a Hamas-led cabinet. Islamic Jihad organization, on the other hand, rejected Hamas's invitation to join the new coalition. Hamas began formal talks on Monday with a number of factions in an attempt to form a new cabinet. Hamas leaders said their goal was to establish as broad a coalition as possible. PFLP representative Rabah Muhanna said after meeting Hamas officials in Gaza City that his group had agreed "in principle" to join the coalition. "We have given our agreement in principle to participating in the government as long as we can reach an accord on the political and social program," he said. Nafez Azzam, a top Islamic Jihad official, said his organization would not join the Hamas-led cabinet. "Our position is clear on this issue," he told reporters after meeting with Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. "We won't join the cabinet, but we are prepared to cooperate with Hamas on several issues." Talks were also scheduled with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah later this week.