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Terrorism & Security

Fatah-Hamas leadership dispute could jeopardize Palestinian statehood campaign

Fatah and Hamas are meeting in Cairo today to choose the leader of the Palestinian unity government. But strong disagreements could derail their reconciliation pact.

By Staff writer / June 14, 2011



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The two rival Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah, are meeting in Cairo to decide on a key aspect of their reconciliation pact: who should head a unity government. But reported disagreements over a leader appear nearly irreconcilable, threatening to weaken the Palestinians' hand as they push for statehood recognition from the United Nations in September.

Fatah, the secular party that controls the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist party in control of the Gaza Strip, signed a reconciliation agreement in early May that laid out plans for a Palestinian unity government, with the exact composition to be decided later.

The top priority of today's meeting in Cairo is selecting a leader for the interim government and discussing other top posts, according to Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram. This weekend, Fatah named Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as its top candidate for the post. On Sunday, however, Hamas rejected Mr. Fayyad as an acceptable option, the Associated Press reports.

Fayyad is a US-educated economist, former World Bank employee, and Palestinian finance minister who has cracked down on corruption and presided over the West Bank's impressive though heavily donor-dependent economic growth. While Fayyad's work with foreign donors has been welcomed by many in the West Bank, it has drawn ire from Hamas, who sees it as cooperation with the US and Israel, the Washington Post reports.

"Salam Fayyad is unacceptable, because he has drowned the Palestinian people in billions of dollars of debt and made its economy and political decision-making dependent on foreign donors,” Salah Bardawil, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, said to the Post. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the US, also accuses Fayyad of cooperating with those two countries to thwart Hamas's influence in the West Bank.

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