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Monday, February 06, 2012

Abbas declared "unity" prime minister, and what the NYT is missing

From NYT:
The leaders of the rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas announced on Monday that they have broken a long political deadlock and formed an interim unity government led, at least at first, by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank.

The announcement at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, which was broadcast live across the region, signaled a significant step toward reconciling the two movements as they prepare for elections.

Mr. Abbas, the chief of Fatah, and Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, met in Qatar at the weekend for talks on how to move forward with reconciliation efforts. Under an accord signed last May, the sides had agreed to form a government of independent technocrats to prepare for elections, but they had been unable to agree on a candidate for the post of prime minister.

News reports before the announcement said the two sides reached an agreement for Mr. Abbas to replace the incumbent, Salam Fayyad, as prime minister. It was not clear if Mr. Fayyad would also be a member of the new government.
The newspaper didn't mention the details:

1. The PLO, which runs the PA, will continue to be restructured, presumably to include Hamas (and probably Islamic Jihad) at its highest levels. This is why Hamas agrees to having a Fatah member as the head of the PA - because while the West thinks that the PA is the government, in fact the PLO is what calls the shots, especially in foreign affairs. Abbas, as head of the PLO, is agreeing to admit unrepentant terrorists into that organization.

2. There will be a meeting on restructuring the PLO in Cairo on February 18.

3. Abbas will head the "national consensus" government but his main job will be to set up the presidential and legislative elections. It is unclear if he will run for president - he had promised not to - and there are no credible Fatah candidates for that position, so chances are very good that Hamas will win.

4. Some more committees to address detainees, passports, travel between the West Bank and Gaza, and other provisions of the agreement last May that were never implemented despite dozens of meetings.

5. Starting work on taking the Central Election Commission out of mothballs. The implication is that the promised May elections will be delayed.

Hamas was against Abbas being the prime minister but relented under pressure from Qatar. Chances are that there was some unreported detail about the PLO restructuring that favors Hamas.

Fayyad said he welcomed the announcement.

Meanwhile, Gazans are complaining that they still cannot get passports, even after officials claimed that problem was solved.