Hamas, Fatah agree on unity gov't; Abbas to be PM

Mashaal says Fatah, Hamas "are serious" about ending division between the two rival factions.

Abbas, Qatar's al-Thani, and Mashaal_390 (photo credit: Reuters)
Abbas, Qatar's al-Thani, and Mashaal_390
(photo credit: Reuters)
Fatah and Hamas announced Monday they had reached another reconciliation agreement to end their differences – this time under the auspices of Qatar.
According to the new accord, dubbed the Doha Declaration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to serve as interim prime minister of a unity government consisting of independent figures.
The government’s main mission, the agreement stipulates, would be to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections and rebuild the Gaza Strip.
No date has been set for the elections. But some Palestinians said the vote would take place 90 days after the formation of the new government.
Other Palestinians predicted the elections would be held later this year.
It’s not clear whether current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would be part of the proposed unity government.
A PA official in Ramallah said he did not rule out the possibility that Fayyad would be appointed deputy prime minister and minister of finance.
Abbas’s insistence on keeping Fayyad in his job had scuttled previous efforts to form a unity government.
Fayyad and many Palestinians across the political spectrum hailed the latest agreement, saying it would fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians who want to see an end to the Fatah-Hamas power struggle.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also welcomed the deal and expressed his movement’s readiness to implement it on the ground.
The agreement, which was signed between Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha, also calls for solving a number of issues that have hindered the implementation of the previous reconciliation pact that was announced in Cairo last May.
These issues include the release of Hamas and Fatah activists who are being held by both sides, reopening closed institutions, lifting travel bans and allowing Fatah members who fled the Gaza Strip to return to their homes.
Abbas told Mashaal and the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, that the PA has released in recent weeks 64 Hamas-affiliated detainees who were being held in Palestinian prisons in the West Bank.
Abbas and Mashaal also agreed to hold a meeting of the temporary leadership of various Palestinian groups in Egypt later this month to review the steps taken by the two parties toward implementing the reconciliation agreements.
The new leadership, which was announced in Cairo several weeks ago, would also discuss incorporating Hamas into the PLO, which consists of several groups, the largest of which is Fatah.
Azzam Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, said the unity government would be announced following the Cairo meeting on February 18.
Ahmed said the leadership meeting would be attended by several Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Abbas said after the signing ceremony that he was committed to the implementation of the new agreement, “which serves the interests of the Palestinian people and Arab nation.”
Abbas told reporters the Doha Declaration was reached “not only so that it would be published, but in order to implement it on the ground.”
Mashaal, too, affirmed his commitment to the implementation of the accord and thanked Qatar for its mediation efforts to end the dispute between Hamas and Fatah.
However, some Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip voiced opposition to the deal, especially the appointment of Abbas as prime minister.
“It was Hamas that won the election [in 2006] and not Mahmoud Abbas,” said a Hamas legislator who asked not to be identified. “Many people in Hamas are not happy with this agreement.”
Another Hamas legislator, Ismail Ashqar, criticized the Qatari-sponsored pact, saying it “violated the Palestinian Authority Basic Law and bypassed the Palestinian Legislative Council.”
Ashqar said the ball was now in the court of Abbas who, he added, would have to stop the negotiations and security coordination with Israel to ensure the success of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.