PA President Mahmoud Abbas's Chief of Staff Rafiq Husseini said on Sunday that the formation of a Palestinian unity government that would renew negotiations with Israel was close. Husseini said in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper that before a unity government could be established, kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit must be released, as must the Palestinian parliament members in Israeli custody.
Hamas: US must change its policy on Palestinians
He added that any unity government would have to recognize Israel, and if Hamas refused to do so, it would not take part in the government, Israel Radio reported.
Meanwhile, Arabic newspapers in London and the Persian Gulf reported that the unity government would allot nine portfolios to Hamas and six to Fatah. Five positions would go to independent ministers, the reports said, and the remaining four to other Palestinian political parties.
Earlier Sunday, Damascus-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal warned that the United States and Israel would suffer serious losses if the "siege on the Palestinian people" continued.
Mashaal said that if a unity government were established and the persecution did not stop, the Palestinian Authority would collapse.
The Hamas leader also told the Egyptian daily Al Ahram in an interview that the proposed Palestinian unity government would appoint 34 ministers, most of them members of PA political parties, Army Radio reported.
Mashaal added that the European peace initiative suggested earlier in the week contained important points that required careful examination.
Mashaal's comments followed a Saturday night introductory meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and prime-ministerial candidate Muhammad Shabir.
Current Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also took part in the meeting, which yielded positive results for Hamas-Fatah relations, officials said, but no major progress as yet toward the formation of a unity government.