"There is hope for the moderates, for those who believe in a two-state solution," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters in Los Angeles Saturday, but added that the international community must sustain its tough stance on Hamas. The remarks came in the wake of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's comments on Friday that he would consider stepping down in the event of a unity government agreement with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Western aid and the freezing of economic sanctions against the Palestinians.
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Haniyeh's statement Friday was the latest indication that the Islamic Hamas group was nearing a deal to form a national unity government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' moderate Fatah Party that would be made up of independent experts.
Such a coalition would presumably present a more moderate face to the world and convince the West to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in international funding.
"When the issue of the siege is on one side, and my being prime minister is on the other, let the siege be lifted to end the suffering of the Palestinian people," Haniyeh said, referring to the sanctions that have caused widespread hardship in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh's comments came a day after Abbas spoke on the phone with his main political rival, Hamas' supreme leader Khaled Mashaal - their first conversation since April. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said their discussion indicated the sides were nearing agreement.
The international sanctions, including tax revenues Israel has withheld since Hamas took power in March, has made it largely impossible for Hamas to pay the government's 165,000 employees.
The West, including the United States, has said it will not lift sanctions unless Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts past peace deals, something Hamas has so far refused to do.
The program of the proposed new unity government is vague on the key issue of recognizing Israel, calling for a Palestinian state on only the lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War. Hamas' charter calls for an Islamic state on those lands as well as Israel.