The Palestinians’ rival leaders have quietly decided to keep their respective governments in the West Bank and Gaza in place until elections, a senior Hamas figure told The Associated Press. This proposal would remove a major obstacle to efforts to reconcile the factions: the need to form an interim unity government.
A representative of Hamas’ rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, denied that such a deal was struck. Abbas envoy Azzam al-Ahmed insisted there was no agreement and “no possibility of holding elections without a unity government.”
The Hamas figure said the understanding was reached between Western-backed Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, chief of the Islamic militant Hamas, during one-on-one talks last week. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he said the two leaders decided not to make the arrangement public.
Another top Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said that it was at least possible to skip an interim government and head straight to elections, tentatively scheduled for May.
The Hamas statements suggested that a solution was being finessed to get around the disagreement over keeping Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the West Bank government, who is popular with Western donors but strongly opposed by Hamas. By retaining the separate governments until the elections and perhaps enabling them to work closer together, both sides could save face.