GAZA,(Reuters) – A unity government formed by rival Hamas and Fatah groups to halt deadly Palestinian violence will be sworn in on Saturday after gaining parliamentary approval, a Hamas lawmaker said.
“The government will win an easy vote of confidence,” Salah al-Bardaweel, spokesman of the Islamist movement’s parliamentary bloc, told Reuters on Friday. He said the factions taking part in the coalition could easily outvote any disaffected lawmakers.
Parliament is due to convene at 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) in Gaza City to hear a speech by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose secular Fatah faction has joined its Hamas opponents in a government led by outgoing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Haniyeh will present his new cabinet line-up and read a policy speech before a debate and a confidence vote. Ministers will then be sworn in at Abbas’s office, Bardaweel said.
There is no guarantee that the new cabinet, born after weeks of wrangling interspersed with street clashes, will be able to persuade foreign powers to lift crippling year-old restrictions on direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.
But France has invited new Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr to visit Paris, while European diplomats said Britain planned to allow diplomatic contacts with non-Hamas ministers. “Britain is not going to have contact with Hamas but there are members of the overnment who are not Hamas and British diplomats will be able to have contact with them,” a senior diplomat familiar with the decision said.
Israel has vowed to shun the entire government and has urged world powers to do the same, saying its reported programme fails to meet the terms set by the Quartet of Middle East mediators.
The Quartet — the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — suspended direct aid to the government a year ago after Hamas won elections and took power. Hamas has rejected Quartet demands that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals with the Jewish state.
The new government is likely to pledge “respect” for past agreements, in line with a Saudi-brokered agreement reached by Hamas and Fatah in Mecca on Feb. 8.
The United States has said any Palestinian government must meet all the Quartet’s conditions, but has reserved judgment on the unity oalition. France and Russia have made warmer noises. “What is needed now is an Arab and Palestinian effort to develop the international position in favour of dealing and cooperating with the new government,” Bardaweel said.
The coalition’s fate may hang on whether it can erode the foreign boycott of the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, which has been unable to pay its employees in full for a year.
International Crisis Group analyst Mouin Rabbani said much rested on the Quartet. “Are they going to starve or besiege or sabotage this government to seek ideological concessions or are they willing to deal with it on the basis of its conduct?”
For many Palestinians, the first test of the government is whether it can end factional fighting which has cost more than 300 lives in the past year and raised fears of civil war.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead an intelligence officer loyal to Abbas in Gaza on Friday. In a separate incident, gunmen fired at a car carrying a director of the U.N. refugee relief agency in Gaza City, causing no casualties, officials said.