Palestinian leaders agree on reforms in Fatah
Jihad says won't join Palestinian unity government; Hamas still mulling Abbas proposal to join cabinet.
AMMAN, Jordan - Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas agreed with top aides Saturday on "real" reforms in the ruling Fatah movement and to continue a crackdown on armed Palestinian gangs hampering efforts to restore stability to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abbas emerged from the closing session of three days of meetings of the 16-member Fatah Central Committee - the first in more than 5 years - to reiterate that Palestinians were "completely prepared" to take over control of Gaza after the disengagement plan is implemented.
A Palestinian takeover will be "quiet, clean and respectful," Abbas told reporters before he embarked on a North African tour that will include stops in Mauritania and Libya. He said the Fatah members also discussed appointing a vice president but no names were mentioned.
The Fatah meeting took place in Jordan so the largest possible number of committee members could attend, including exiled leaders who refuse to deal with Israel.
PA Information Minister Nabil Shaath said they agreed on "real reforms, to review the past and to establish new institutions." He said elections would be held in the ruling Fatah faction to allow the "young generation" to take part in the decision making.
He declined to discuss details on the planned reforms but said Palestinians may resort to a law which will scrutinize officials' private finances. "The law of 'where did you get this from,' will be implemented retroactively," he said. He did not say when the law will be enforced but stressed that his government was keen to "uproot corruption."
Separately, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said there was consensus on "regulating armament." He did not elaborate. Shaath told a news conference later that the reference was to armed Palestinian gangs "who use weapons, not to defend the country, but for blackmailing and killing."
Shaath said Fatah leaders established a committee to "consolidate dialogue" with different factions, including militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"We welcomed the participation of the Palestinian factions in a coalition government to unify the efforts after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza," he said.
Jihad says won't join Palestinian unity gov't; Hamas mulling proposalThe Islamic Jihad militant group said Saturday it does not intend joining any new Palestinian national unity government to deal with the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, for its part, said it was still studying the unity offer, made by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas invited Hamas to join his cabinet immediately to oversee the smooth handover of the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal under the disengagement plan this summer.
Islamic Jihad Gaza spokesman Khader Habib told reporters that his movement rejected joining or participating in anything, governmental or otherwise, that were connected to the Oslo Accords.
"Our position is very clear. ... the Oslo accords were unfair and unjust to our people," he said.
He said, however, that his movement would agree to join a Palestinian committee which would observe the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and which would include all Palestinian national and Islamic powers.
"We of course have plans and we are ready to coordinate these plans in order to reach understandings in all issues and organize our internal house after the Israeli withdrawal," said Habib.
Hamas is considering the offer, a senior official in the group said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. The official said the Islamic group's leadership in Gaza and abroad would make the final decision on whether to join Abbas' government.
Abbas' office confirmed the report on Saturday. Hamas' West Bank leader, Hassan Yousef, also on Saturday confirmed the group was considering the offer.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in response that the presence of Hamas in an Abbas-led government is unacceptable, and will not help the sides reach a peace deal.
"Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization responsible for countless acts of senseless violence against innocent civilians," Regev told The Associated Press. "Hamas is no partner for us in any sort of political process. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution," he said.
Regev said Israel sees the group as "part of the problem and not as part of any sort of solution" and reiterated Israel's demand that Abbas dismantle it.
"We believe that the best way to deal with Hamas is to disarm them, delegitimize them and disqualify them," Regev said.
"Mr Abbas is committed to disarming all the terrorist groups - we're hopeful that he will follow through on this commitment."
Abbas made the offer earlier this week after Hamas demanded a special committee be formed to oversee the transfer of powers in Gaza. Abbas rejected the Hamas demand, but invited them to join his Cabinet instead, the Hamas official added.
Dahlan: Evacuated areas to house 250,000 PalestiniansNew homes built in areas Israel intends to evacuate within the framework of the disengagement plan will be used to house some 250,000 Palestinians, Palestinian minister for civil affairs Mohammed Dahlan was quoted Friday as saying.
In an interview with the Saudi-based Al-Watan newspaper, Dahlan also said Israel will be obligated to remove the rubble of settlement homes it demolishes as the decision to carry out the demolitions was Israel's.
Dahlan also said the Palestinian Authority has proposed making a third party responsible for security checks at the new airport to be built in the Gaza Strip.
In a meeting two weeks ago with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas accepted the plan according to which Israel would destroy settlers' homes and the Palestinian Authority would remove the debris using international funding.