On the second anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has said a unity government could be formed by the end of the month. It would be made up of representatives from both Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas, although probably not of prominent politicians, and should lead to the lifting of an aid embargo on the Palestinians.
The United States and the European Union imposed crippling sanctions when Hamas was elected in January to try to force the Islamists to recognise Israel and renounce violence. Abbas said: “I have good news to announce to our people, we have made enormous progress on the path to forming a national unity government, which would be capable of breaking the siege and opening the way towards a political solution which would put a permanent end to the occupation.
“I hope with God’s help that this government will see the light of day before the end of this month.” In a week which has seen what he called a massacre of 18 civilians by the Israeli army, he called on Israel to talk peace. The Palestinians were killed in the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip.
“What sense of justice, what international convention gives Israel the right to kill women, children, the elderly and emergency services workers?” he asked. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has offered to step aside in the new government – a move welcomed by the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister on her visit to the United States.