CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – The militant group Hamas has decided to name Jamal al-Khudairi, a Gaza businessman who ran for parliament as an independent with Hamas backing, as its candidate for Palestinian prime minister, a top Hamas official said Wednesday.
Al-Khudairi, the board chairman of the Islamic University in Gaza, was picked as the group’s candidate for prime minister during a meeting of the group’s leadership this week in Cairo, said the Hamas official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the group has not yet made the proposal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
If al-Khudari is not accepted in negotiations with Abbas or turns down the nomination, the group will name as candidate the current Palestinian trade and economics minister Mazen Sonnoqrot, another independent with Hamas sympathies, the Hamas official said.
Al-Khudairi, about age 50, has never addressed issues such as violence or recognition of Israel, sticking in most of his campaign speeches to issues such as education and job training. He has, however, talked about the need for internal Palestinian reform.
He is a businessman who owns the biggest mattress factory in the West Bank and Gaza, and holds an engineering degree from an Egyptian university. He has been, for 14 years, chairman of Gaza’s Islamic University, an institution mostly controlled by Hamas.
Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, said Wednesday that a long-term cease-fire with Israel is possible if the Jewish state returned to its 1967 borders.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. in Cairo, Meshaal also said that Hamas would not renounce violence as it is entitled to resist what it regards as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, Syria, said Hamas was capable of leading the Palestinians in a long fight that they would be better able to bear than Israel.
Abbas has said that he will ask Hamas, whose members won the largest number of seats in the Palestinian parliament in last month’s elections, to form the new government.
Abbas asked the new parliament to convene on Feb. 18. Exiled Hamas leaders from Syria joined Hamas leaders from Gaza in a series of meetings this week in Cairo to try to hammer out the movement’s plans for a new Palestinian government after last month’s landslide election win.
The Hamas official said group leaders from both inside and outside the Palestinian territories had unanimously agreed on the choice of al-Khudairi.
Hamas has proposed a national coalition government that would also include Fatah, Abbas’ party, plus other Palestinian factions and independent figures.
During their meeting, the Hamas leaders also decided that if all efforts to name a cabinet with a non-Hamas prime minister fail, they will name one of their own leaders as the new prime minister, the official said.
“Then (Gaza Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh will be our choice,” the official said.