Formation of Palestinian unity government runs into obstacles

Sources say Fatah, Hamas have still not agreed on 3 major issues concerning implementation of reconciliation deal that was signed in Gaza last month.

Hamas PM Haniyeh and PLO official Ahmed in Gaza unity talks (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas PM Haniyeh and PLO official Ahmed in Gaza unity talks
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Differences between Fatah and Hamas may delay the formation of a Palestinian unity government and its announcement by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian sources said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Fatah and Hamas officials who met in the Gaza Strip said that Abbas was expected to announce the unity government, which would be headed by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, on Thursday.
But the sources said that the two parties have still not agreed on three major issues concerning the implementation of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal that was signed in the Gaza Strip last month.
The sources told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper that one of the obstacles hindering the formation of the unity government is related to the status of the Palestinian security forces.
Hamas has rejected the idea of permitting Fatah-dominated security forces to return to the Gaza Strip, they said.
The second obstacle centers on PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash.
Abbas insists on keeping Habbash in his job, while Hamas says it won’t sit in any government with him.
Habbash is a former Hamas representative who defected from the organization several years ago and has since been an outspoken critic of the Islamist movement.
The sources said that the third obstacle preventing the establishment of a unity government is related to Hamas’s demand that 40,000 of its supporters be placed on the PA’s payroll. Abbas, the sources said, is opposed to this demand because it would hurt the PA budget, which is already facing a severe deficit.
Fatah and Hamas have also failed to reach agreement over the identity of the PA foreign minister. The sources said that Hamas remains opposed to keeping current foreign minister Riad al-Malki in his job.
Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk confirmed that the two parties were facing difficulties in reaching agreement over the unity government.
However, he predicted that they would be able to overcome their differences and announce the new government sometime next week.
An Israeli official warned that if the Fatah Hamas pact materialized it would not be possible to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Our position is clear. We will not negotiate with such a government,” the official said. Israel objects to a Palestinian government with Hamas because the group has failed to recognize Israel or renounce violence against it.
“We have an American commitment that supports our position on this issue,” the official said.
It also wanted that such a unity pact would make it impossible for Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to keep his commitment to disarm terrorist groups. Hamas has been behind many of the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and should such attacks continue, the official warned, Israel would have the right to hold Abbas responsible.