PA: US okays Hamas-Fatah government

Official tells 'Post' new US administration believes Palestinian unity gov't would be "good for stability."

abbas haniyeh pals 248 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas haniyeh pals 248 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Obama administration has given the Palestinian Authority a "green light" to talk to Hamas about forming a Palestinian unity government, a PA official in Ramallah said over the weekend. The official said that Washington had also given Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the go-ahead to resume his efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. "The new administration has a different policy than that of [former US president] George W. Bush," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "The administration of President Barack Obama believes that a Hamas-Fatah government is good for stability." Cairo has issued invitations to representatives of Hamas, Fatah and several other Palestinian groups to attend reconciliation talks that are due to begin in Cairo on Wednesday. Fatah and Hamas officials confirmed that the Egyptians had invited them to the talks. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said that for the talks to succeed, the PA must first release all "political prisoners" from its West Bank jails. The talks were originally set for Sunday, but the Egyptians announced last week that they were postponing them following the failure of negotiations with Hamas and Israel over a new Gaza cease-fire agreement. An attempt by the Egyptians to hold a similar conference in November failed because of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to free hundreds of Hamas detainees ahead of the talks. Abbas, who visited Cairo last week, reportedly told Mubarak that he's prepared to patch up his differences with Hamas. According one of his aides, Abbas urged the Egyptian president to set a new date for convening the Palestinian "national reconciliation" talks in Cairo. At the conference, Hamas and Fatah are expected to form five joint committees to discuss ways of resolving their differences over issues such as control over the border crossings into the Gaza Strip, reconstructing the PA security forces and forming a new unity government. Ahead of the planned parley, Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Cairo and Ramallah over the past two weeks in an attempt to agree on an agenda. Fatah legislator Azam al-Ahmed, who has been participating in the talks with Hamas, said the results of the recent Israeli election, which saw the rise of right-wing parties, required the Palestinians to unite "in the face of the new challenges." He also expressed optimism regarding the prospects of ending the Hamas-Fatah power struggle. Another Fatah official, Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, said the fact that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has been tasked with forming the next government "proves that Israeli public opinion favors war and destruction." In the wake of the "dangerous developments in Israel, the Palestinians must unite their ranks by forming a unity government," Naja said. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders said over the weekend that Democratic Sen. John Kerry's visit to the Gaza Strip last Thursday signaled a change in US policy toward their movement. "The visit is a move in the right direction," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. "We consider the visit as an indirect step aimed at ending the boycott of Hamas by the Americans and the international community." Welcoming the apparent shift in US policy, the Hamas spokesman expressed hope that the Obama administration would "repair" the damage and injustice done to Hamas after it won the January 2006 election, when the Bush administration decided to boycott and impose sanctions on it. However, he voiced disappointment over the fact that Kerry did not meet during his tour of the Gaza Strip with "representatives of the democratically elected government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh."