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November 13, 2006
Palestinian Coalition Talks Get Serious

It looks like Fatah and Hamas may have made progress in their talks to form a coalition government in an effort to end the crippling sanctions that followed Hamas' electoral victory this year. They have gone far enough to discuss leadership positions in the revamped Palestinian Authority, and the name discussed for Ismail Haniyeh's replacement may sound familiar to West Virginians:

A U.S.-educated professor with ties to both Hamas and the rival Fatah Party is the leading candidate for Palestinian prime minister in the emerging unity government, officials said Monday.

The militant Hamas group and Fatah have agreed that Mohammed Shabir, 60, formerly the head of Gaza's Islamic University, should head the new government, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top official at Hamas' Syrian headquarters, told The Associated Press.

Fatah and Hamas have been discussing the idea of a coalition government for months, but have been unable to reach a deal. Agreeing on a new prime minister marks an important sign of progress.

Shabir did not deny he was being considered, but said he has not been officially designated. Shabir, who has a doctorate in microbiology from West Virginia University, is considered to be close to Hamas but not an active supporter.

Respected economist Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, is being considered for the post of finance minister, a job he held until the Hamas-led government took office early this year. Fayyad was credited with fighting mismanagement and cronyism, and his return to the treasury would likely go far in lifting a crippling international aid boycott.

The Palestinians hope that a Cabinet of pragmatists and technocrats will convince Israel and the West to end the sanctions regime that has disintegrated the Palestinian economy. The formation of a coalition government, especially one free of terrorists such as Haniyeh, will make a good first step towards meeting the demands of aid-providing nations. However, the money will not start again until the PA agrees to abide by past agreements, including the recognition of Israel as a legitimate nation.

This progress has more significance than just an attempt to restore aid, however. The Palestinians have produced the worst leadership possible for the longest stretch in history. Terrorists have represented their interests for decades, and the Palestinians have shown little inclination to change directions. This has led them to the brink of a civil war, with Hamas and Fatah starting gunfights in the streets, while Israel continues to respond to rocket attacks from Islamic Jihad. They need a starting point for more rational leadership, statesmen who will lead them from the debacle of street gangs to real governance.

Hamas and Fatah have resisted that change, and for good reason; it will put them out of business. Now, however, circumstances have forced them to find credible and non-violent representatives in order to engage the nations that can rescue them from their collapsed economy. It gives a small opening for the Palestinians to develop a responsible polity, one not dependent on street gangs but on rational policy. Once that tradition takes root, it could compete with the terrorists for control. If nothing else, it will show Palestinians the range of possibilities.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 13, 2006 6:35 AM

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Fatah, Hamas agree on candidate for Pali prime minister Allahpundit It’s Mohammed Shabir, former president of Islamic University and holder of a doctorate in microbiology from the University of West Virginia. ... [Read More]

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