The Islamic Jihad pledged Friday that it would cooperate with the new Palestinian Authority unity government, a day after Fatah and Hamas leaders announced in Mecca that they had finally struck a deal on the issue. "The Islamic Jihad will support the new government so that it can succeed in its task," said Nafaz Azam, one of the organization's leaders in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.
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Text of the Mecca Accord for the PA coalition government
A senior Hamas official said Thursday that Saudi Arabia promised $1 billion in aid to the Palestinians after Hamas and Fatah delegates reached a breakthrough.
The two parties also agreed that the political platform of the unity government would not require Hamas to abide by previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel, one of the three conditions the Quartet had set for granting the Hamas government legitimacy.
Instead, the unity government has been asked to "honor" the agreements with Israel, as well as resolutions of the United Nations and Arab summits pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Moreover, the Fatah-Hamas agreement does not require the unity government to explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist or Hamas to renounce violence, which was another of the Quartet's requirements.
The two parties agreed to end internecine fighting and to work toward consolidating national unity.
Even if they are part of unity government that accepts the Quartet principles the US government would continue to boycott Hamas ministers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Jewish leaders in a closed door meeting Thursday afternoon.
The Hamas ministers in the government would still belong to a terrorist organization and on that account the US administration would have no contact with them, Rice said, according to Jewish officials who spoke with The Jerusalem Post following the meeting.
In a letter to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas urged him to form a new government that would "abide by the higher interests of the Palestinians, preserve the achievements of the Palestinians and honor agreements signed by the PLO."
Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to Haniyeh , said the Saudi money would be used in phases and would go to paying salaries of civil servants and funding various ministries and projects.
"We highly appreciate the significant role that Saudi Arabia is playing regarding the Palestinian cause," he said. "The Saudis are playing a key role in exerting pressure on the Americans and Europeans to resume financial aid to the Palestinians and deal with the Hamas-led government."
The Prime Minister's Office Thursday evening had no comment on the agreement that Hamas and Fatah signed in Mecca, saying Israel would have to study its details before responding.
"We hope and expect that Abbas will put together a government that will abide by the international principles," a source in the Prime Minister's Office said. The official refused to speculate what would happen if these principles were not included in the government's framework agreement.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, however, issued a statement saying "a united Palestinian government without a united policy in favor of peace doesn't solve any problem."
"A Palestinian government that doesn't lean on the road map and the decisions of the Quartet is simply 'walking in place,'" Peres said. "The Palestinians don't only need to form a new government, they need to embark on a new path toward peace."
Under the terms of the agreement, Hamas will cede control over a number of key ministries, but will be allowed to keep nine portfolios, including the premiership.
Fatah will have six ministers in the unity government. Four ministries will go to representatives of other Palestinian factions, while another five will be given to independent figures.
The unity government will be headed by Haniyeh, who will have to work with a deputy prime minister from Fatah. Fatah legislator Muhammad Dahlan has been mentioned as a possible candidate for deputy prime minister.
According to the officials, the Foreign Affairs portfolio will be given to independent legislator Ziad Abu Amr, who has close ties with both Fatah and Hamas. The two parties also agreed to reinstate Salaam Fayad as finance minister.
Regarding the controversial Interior Ministry, the two parties agreed to appoint Hamoudeh Jarwan, former head of the PLO's "military courts" in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, as interior minister. He will replace Said Siam of Hamas, who has been strongly criticized by Fatah for establishing Hamas's private paramilitary "Executive Force" in the Gaza Strip.
The agreement also calls for merging the "Executive Force" into various branches of the Fatah-dominated PA security forces. Abbas recently decided to outlaw the Hamas force, but was turned down by the Hamas-led government.
Sources close to the two parties told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas will retain control over the Economy, Sports, Education, Wakf, Justice, Local Government and Communications ministries. They said Fatah will receive the ministries of Health, Transportation, Public Works, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Prisoners Affairs.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report