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Monday, May 30, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Hamas said to be demonstrating more flexibility; Unity government possible by mid-June

RAMALLAH — The ruling Fatah movement has envisioned an imminent agreement with Hamas on the composition of a national unity government for the Palestinian Authority.


Fatah sources asserted that negotiations with the rival Hamas movement was progressing despite reports to the contrary. They said Hamas was demonstrating greater flexibility than expected amid expectations that a unity government would bolster the Islamic-ruled Gaza Strip.

"Hamas understands that a unity government would end most if not all restrictions by the international community on the Gaza Strip, and this is certainly a factor," a Fatah source said.

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The sources said an agreement with Hamas could be reached by mid-June 2011. They said Hamas and Fatah have agreed on many of the ministers in the so-called 15-member technocrat Cabinet.

"The real remaining disagreement is over who should be prime minister," the source said. [On May 29, former PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, now a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the Cabinet of the forthcoming PA government would be announced on June 6, Middle East Newsline reported. Shaath, who was meeting the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, said the government was meant to last for one year.]

Fatah, urged by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has insisted that incumbent Salam Fayad, supported by the European Union and the United States, continue as prime minister. But the sources said Fatah has offered to reduce Fayad's authority and remove him from the post of finance minister.

One option envisioned the Finance Ministry being given to Mohammed Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund. Mustafa has already announced a $1 million investment fund for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha'al was said to have agreed to the retention of Fayad but the Islamist regime in the Gaza Strip, particularly the pro-Iranian wing, remains opposed. Under the Fatah formula, also supported by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al Arabi, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh would serve as Fayad's deputy.

"There is a feeling that Hamas's position on Fayad is a bargaining tool more than a boycott of the man," another Fatah source said.

The sources said Hamas has demanded guarantees that the international community would lift the siege from the Gaza Strip as well as the release of all Islamists held by the PA. They said Hamas has already proposed candidates for ministers, including Nasser Al Shaer, Samir Abu Eisha and Ghaza Hamad, all of them Hamas members and senior officials in the Gaza regime.

For its part, Fatah has proposed ministerial posts for Hanan Ashrawi, Nabil Qassis, Ali Jarbawi and Ziad Bandaq, most of them members of the movement. Under one option, Ms. Ashrawi, with a high profile in the West, would serve as foreign minister.

Other Fatah ministerial candidates included attornies Hossam Al Atryp and Samih Tubeileh, Nidal Sabri, Yasser Amouri, Mohammed Nasser, Hafez Al Jabari, Daoud Zaatreh and Mamoun Abu Shalah. The sources said Hamas was being allowed to select between the Fatah nominees.

Another obstacle could be Abbas's intention to resume negotiations with Israel for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Hamas deputy political bureau chief Mussa Abu Marzouk ruled out talks with Israel that are not based on its withdrawal from the entire West Bank and most of Jerusalem. Abu Marzouk also dismissed the prospect that Fayad continue as prime minister.

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