1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU Wants Unity Government

DW staff (jc)November 14, 2006

EU foreign policy leaders expressed hope that a new Palestinian government could help revive Middle East peace negotiations. The question is: Will Hamas ever accept Israel's right to exist?

Solana with Abbas
The Palestinian Authority has been under an EU aid embargo since MarchImage: AP

The prospect of Hamas and Fatah forming a new unity cabinet -- with Mohammad Shbair unofficially named to succeed Hamas member Ismail Haniya as Palestinian Prime Minister -- was welcome news to European foreign ministers at their monthly meeting in Brussels. "Such a government," they said in a joint statement released on Monday, "would also be a partner for the international community to support the re-launching of the peace process."

The EU's Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said she believed a new Palestinian leadership could break the current impasse in the Middle East. "Those seeking a new government need our support and a calm environment," commented Ferrero-Waldner. "Let's hope they have a good government with which we can work."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also welcomed the prospect of change. "The talks between Fatah and Hamas seem to indicate that a national unity government could be possible," Steinmeier said. "That would get the process of negotiations moving."

And the EU's foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana added that he was "optimistic" there would soon be a new Palestinian government.

The Middle East peace process ground to a halt this March, when Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, won Palestinian elections.

A New Government of Technocrats

Mohammad Shbair
Shbair is currently a Palestinian MP and the former head of the Islamic University in GazaImage: AP

Shbair -- a US-educated biologist who is not a member of either Hamas or Fatah -- has not been officially nominated, but spokespeople from both factions say he has a good chance of becoming the next Palestinian prime minister. Shbair has said he would accept the job.

His prospective appointment is widely seen as a move to put together a new government of experts and technocrats and downplay ideological figures such as Haniya. Hamas and Fatah are currently negotiating over the make-up of a new cabinet.

If a new government is formed, its first task will be to tackle the disastrous state of the Palestinian Authority's finances. After Hamas' election victory in March, the EU and the US froze aid payments to the Palestinian government, demanding that Hamas recognize Israel.

As a result, the Palestinian Authority has had difficulty paying the salaries of most of its 165,000 workers since April. The boycott has devastated the Palestinian economy.

Hamas Hardliners

A masked Hamas militant rides a scooter
The EU and the US consider Hamas a terrorist organizationImage: AP

But the EU and US will not resume aid payments until Palestinians have a government that accepts the existence of Israel -- something Hamas has consistently refused to do.

"Our position in this regard remains unchanged," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated on Tuesday. "We reject joining in any government that recognizes Israel."

Some Hamas officials say a new government's platform might be kept vague enough to get around the conflict. But Israel and the US are likely to press for an endorsement of the two-state solution, agreed by the so-called quartet of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN as the basis for Middle East peace negotiations.

Officials from the quartet are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the prospects of a new Palestinian government.