PA Chairman Abbas extends period to form new government

Despite optimism, Hamas announces that it will never give up one inch of the land of historic Palestine.

Abbas Haniyeh deal 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Haniyeh deal 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Friday gave Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh an extra two weeks to put together the new unity government between the rival Fatah and Hamas parties. The move was largely a formality. Palestinian law gives a prime minister up to five weeks to form a government. An initial three-week period following the agreement ended Friday. But in a move that could jeopardize attempts to persuade the US and EU to deal with the new government, Hamas announced that it will never give up one inch of the land of historic Palestine and that it will continue the armed resistance against Israel. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to urge Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during their meeting early next week to give the new unity government a chance, on the grounds that Hamas has changed and is willing to accept previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. Abbas has also been trying to persuade the Americans and Europeans that the "national unity" agreement he reached with Hamas in Saudi Arabia last month is tantamount to recognition of Israel's existence and the Oslo Accords. A statement issued by the Hamas leadership in Gaza City said the movement remained committed to "the path of the martyrs and will not abandon the option of resistance." The statement was issued on the fourth anniversary of the death of Ibrahim Makadma, a top Hamas official who was killed by Israeli security forces. "We will never give up one inch of the land of Palestine or any of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return [for the refugees], freedom and independence," the statement said. Hamas and Fatah officials said the unity government may be announced next Tuesday. They said the two parties have managed to resolve most of their differences, especially with regard to the identity of the interior minister. Hamas, according to the officials, is no longer insisting on the appointment of Hamoudeh Jarwan, a former PLO military prosecutor, to the post. They said the leading candidate for the job was retired general Jamal Abu Zayed of the PA National Security Force. Abu Zayed enjoys good relations with both Hamas and Fatah and previously served as a senior aid to former interior minister Nasser Youssef. Abu Zayed, the officials added, was entrusted by Abbas to coordinate with the IDF the 2005 unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "The two sides have agreed on the make-up of the new coalition," said Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and close aid to Abbas. "The coalition will be made up of Fatah, Hamas, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the People's [Communist] Party, the Third Way headed by Salaam Fayad and the Independent Palestine list headed by Mustafa Barghouti." Ahmed said Fatah leaders will meet in Ramallah on Monday to choose their representatives in the new Hamas-led coalition. He said Fatah will nominate two independent figures to become Foreign Affairs minister and deputy prime minister. Hamas will chose three independents. "Ninety-nine percent of the issues related to the unity government have been resolved," Abbas told reporters Thursday. He said he expected the Palestinian Legislative Council to hold a meeting next week to approve the new make-up. Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the outgoing Hamas-led government, confirmed that significant progress had been achieved in the talks over the formation of a unity government. He said Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will hold another meeting on Monday to finalize the unity government agreement. "President Abbas will return to the Gaza Strip next week after his meeting with Olmert," Hamad said. "He will meet with Haniyeh for the fourth time in the past few days. We are very optimistic because the talks with Fatah have been positive so far." Despite the optimism voiced by the two parties, a Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Maher Miqdad, warned that Abbas would be obliged to ask someone else to form a unity government if the coalition talks with Hamas did not achieve results by the end of next week. "The Palestinian Basic Law authorizes the president to entrust someone else with forming a new government if Haniyeh fails to meet the deadline for establishing a coalition," he said. "Fatah does not want to resort to such a move, and we hope that the brothers in Hamas will stop wasting time and complete the mission."