GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – The Palestinian president and prime minister, heading rival movements, failed again to agree on a joint government that might lead to lifting Western sanctions that have bankrupted their administrationm, but they planned to keep trying.
Moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the militant Islamic Hamas met for more than two hours late Monday without forging an agreement. Both sides said the talks would continue Tuesday.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent politician playing a key role in the talks, called the meeting “fruitful.” He said, “There was agreement on some issues, but some issues still need to be discussed.” He would not say what issues remain open. The talks came as fighting in northern Gaza heated up on the sixth day of an Israeli offensive. At least seven Palestinians were killed, including a female suicide bomber.
Islamic Jihad released a video of the bomber, identified as Mirvat Masoud, after she blew herself up, wounding an Israeli soldier. “My dear mother, I ask you to remain strong and forgive me, and God willing we will meet in heaven,” she said on the video. Only of a few of the more than 100 Palestinian suicide bombers in the past six years were women.
Also, an Israeli missile aimed at a group of militants landed near a Palestinian kindergarten, killing a teenage boy, critically wounding a teacher and seriously wounding eight children, doctors said.
The army said an airstrike in the same area targeted four militants coming to collect launchers used to fire rockets into Israel. Abbas, a moderate, has been urging Hamas, which controls most government functions, to join his Fatah movement in a coalition to end international sanctions.
A Hamas Web site and Palestinian officials said the new prime minister would be current Health Minister Bassem Naim, a Hamas activist. However, officials said Abbas rejected him. Naim has a rich anti-Fatah record.
The platform of the emerging government, however, is vague about the key international demand of recognizing Israel and may not be enough to end the painful aid boycott. Under the emerging plan, the Hamas Cabinet and prime minister would step down and be replaced by a team of experts in hopes of ending the Western boycott, imposed when Hamas came to power in March. However, top Hamas leaders have yet to decide whether to accept the plan, and similar negotiations have broken down before.
The new proposal would enable Hamas to appoint eight ministers and Fatah would choose four, with the remainder of the portfolios awarded to smaller parties. The new prime minister would be chosen by Hamas. Abbas has urged Hamas to choose an independent, in order to make the new government more attractive to the international community, Abbas aides have said.
Hamas’ supreme decision-making body, the secret Shura Council, is to decide in the coming days whether to accept the proposal. Whether the government would meet the international demands remained unclear. The Quartet of Mideast peacemakers, the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, demands that any Palestinian government renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and accept past peace deals.
Western donors, led by the U.S. and EU, have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority. Israel also has suspended vital tax transfers to the Palestinians.
Without the funds, the Palestinian government is mired in a cash crisis, largely unable to pay the salaries of some 165,000 employees and causing widespread hardship in Gaza and the West Bank.
Public service workers have been striking, but late Monday a teachers’ strike was called off, a union official said. The school year was to start Tuesday, two months behind schedule, said civil service union head Bassam Zakarneh, after the Education Ministry pledged to find the money to pay the teachers.