Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad calls on Hamas to accept Abbas’ initiative

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaks at the northern West Bank village of Al-Jalameh Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. Fayyad on Sunday angrily denounced the U.S. veto of a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlements and offered to form a unity government with the rival Hamas militant group. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

PALESTINE, March 18, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE DAILY STAR) — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Thursday urged Hamas to accept President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative for reconciliation, Palestinian media reported.
Abbas said Wednesday he was “ready to go to Gaza tomorrow” to end the division between Fatah and Hamas, after the Islamist group’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, urged “immediate” talks.
Abbas also said he wanted to “form a government of independent national figures to start preparing for … polls within six months.”
Fayyad said forming a national unity government with Hamas was “the way toward ending the division and reuniting occupied Palestine,” the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.
“I call on the Hamas movement to start carrying on with procedures to end Palestinian division to pave the way for reconciliation,” he was quoted as saying.
Fayyad stressed that forming a new Cabinet was “a practical and definite procedure which will help Palestinians to achieve reconciliation,” Wafa said.
“President Abbas’ initiative can be immediately implemented and will help in reuniting the country. We can’t waste any more time and we should support it,” Fayyad added.
Hamas “welcomed the visit but did not welcome the initiative,” political analyst Khalil Shaheen told AFP. “Hamas wants a visit to open dialogue, not only to form a government.
“Hamas is afraid of going to elections without agreeing on other political elements because it fears it may be voted out in the same way it was voted in,” he said, referring to the Islamists’ landslide win in 2006 legislative elections.
The reconciliation moves came after tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank to demand reunification.
But divisions remained obvious.
Hamas police in Gaza detained Thursday a Palestinian protester and two Palestinian cameramen after about 40 activists gathered in front of a U.N. school waving flags and chanting slogans for unity. The 16 other Palestinians rushed into the U.N. school compound, where Hamas police are prevented from operating. The protesters later departed peacefully after the U.N. reached an agreement with Hamas to allow them to leave without further harassment.
A coalition of independent Palestinian political figures announced Thursday preparations were under way for Abbas’ visit to Gaza, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an. It reported coalition leader Yasser al-Wadieh as saying that “urgent consultations had been made to prepare the ground for Abbas’ arrival.” There has been no confirmation from Ramallah, it said.
The Arab League Thursday welcomed the moves by Abbas and Hamas.
In a separate development, masked Jewish settlers attacked and lightly wounded two Palestinian construction workers and an Israeli security guard in a West Bank settlement Thursday, settler officials and police said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said investigators were looking into several different motives.
Also Thursday, residents of the Qedumim settlement torched the cars of two Palestinians working inside the settlement, Palestinian witnesses said. (*)