Da International Herald Tribune del 12/09/2006
Originale su http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/09/11/news/mideast.php

Palestinians plan coalition

di Steven Erlanger, Greg Myre

GAZA President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said Monday that he had reached a tentative agreement with Hamas to form a national unity government in an attempt to end the international isolation and the cutoff in Western assistance that has shackled the government.

In a speech on Palestinian television, Abbas said it would take several days to complete the deal and provided no details of how Hamas and Fatah had resolved their considerable differences.

"We have finalized the elements of the political agenda of the national unity government," Abbas said in his speech. "Hopefully, in the coming days we will begin forming the government of national unity."

While the factions have agreed on a political program, its details were unclear. The program was expected to be limited to this unity government and not commit the Hamas movement to its words. The government will include representatives of other Palestinian factions, like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said Ghazi Hamad, the spokesman for the Hamas-led government.

"We're trying to make a balance between the requirements of the international community and Palestinian factions," Hamad said. "For everyone to sit at the same table won't be easy, but we need to do this. We hope it will break the international siege and minimize the tensions on the street."

Aides to Abbas said that he hoped to be able to disband the current government within the next 48 hours, but that the two factions still disagreed over important portfolios.

Both parties have agreed that the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, will keep his job and that Fatah will control the Finance Ministry. Fatah also wants to have the Foreign Ministry, but Hamas wants Mahmoud Zahar to keep the post. Hamas also wants to keep the Interior Ministry.

Officials said the new government's program would accept all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, an implicit recognition of a two-state solution, and call for the negotiation of an independent Palestine within 1967 borders, including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on the basis of an Arab League initiative.

The document is expected to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization, which has signed all agreements with Israel, as the negotiating representative of the Palestinian people and acknowledge Abbas's right to negotiate for the Palestinians.

Abbas hopes to regain the funds that have been cut off to Hamas since it won elections and then took office in late March. Since then, the 165,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority have had less than two months of their salaries paid, causing considerable hardship and a collapse of the economy, especially in Gaza, when combined with the almost constant closure of crossings into Israel, which Israel says is due to security threats.

After Hamas formed the government, which Fatah refused to join, the United States and the European Union cut direct aid to the Palestinian Authority and Israel stopped handing over the $50 million a month in taxes and customs receipts collected on behalf of the Palestinians, a major reason for the deficit.

They all said that the government led by Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization, must first recognize the right of Israel to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

It remained to be seen whether the still-unpublished program of a still-unfinished new government will be enough for Israel to hand over funds that now total more than $300 million.

The European Union has suggested, although not explicitly, that it will resume contacts and aid to a unity government. The United States, which does not give direct financial support, has been wary.

But a key Palestinian legislator, Ziad Abu Amr, said that if the tax-receipt transfers and aid were not resumed after the change in government, "there's not much point to the whole exercise."

The spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, said that if a new Palestinian government accepts the three international conditions "and releases Gilad Shalit," a captured Israeli corporal, "that would create a new momentum in the peace process and put us firmly on the right track."

"Anything short of that would unfortunately lead to more stagnation that is not good for Israel, not good for the Palestinians and not good for anyone who wants peace in the Middle East," Regev said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview on Israel radio that if the new government did not meet international conditions and if Abbas "decides not to take a step in this direction, but rather join something which actually means he is joining a Hamas-led government of terror, then I'm afraid we are going to have a problem."

Hamad, the Palestinian government spokesman, said Hamas had moved a long distance, adding: "No one should push them into a corner."

Senior European officials have said that an explicit recognition of Israel is not likely to be a requirement, as long as a cease-fire is kept and previous agreements are recognized.

Hamad praised "European flexibility" and confirmed that a political program for a unity government did not commit the Hamas movement itself to alter its beliefs.

Hamas recognizes the fact of Israel but refuses to recognize its right to exist, a position repeated Monday by a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri: "Hamas will still have its political agenda. We will never recognize the legitimacy of the occupation."

That term lets Hamas be vague about whether it means the occupation of land during the 1967 war or, as its charter insists, Israel's very existence in the region.

But Hamad pointed out that the charter of Israel's Likud party calls for an Israel on both banks of the Jordan River, even as Likud governments have recognized the Olso agreements and a two-state solution.

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