Palestinian lawmakers okay new government

Published March 18, 2007

JERUSALEM - The Palestinian parliament approved a government Saturday that shares power between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements, whose enduring differences over how to resolve their long conflict with Israel remained on display as the new Cabinet took office.

Addressing lawmakers in Gaza City, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate Fatah leader, said the new government is "extending its hand wide open, calling for peace and equality" with Israel. He called on the Jewish state to make "a mutual commitment to stop all violence."

Abbas also urged international donors to end the economic aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority that has been in place since Hamas took control of the government nearly a year ago. Hours later he swore in the 25-member Cabinet.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the new government "affirms that resistance in all its forms, including popular resistance to occupation, is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people."

Fatah has been the driving force behind past accords with Israel, which the new government has pledged to respect. But Hamas, an Islamic movement that maintains a potent armed wing, has declined to recognize Israel.

Hamas leaders have instead suggested a long-term truce with Israel in return for its withdrawal from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

The Hamas-Fatah power-sharing arrangement has, at least temporarily, ended factional fighting that has killed about 130 Palestinians over the past year. But the new government platform falls short of international demands that it recognize Israel and renounce violence in return for a resumption of economic aid.

Israel promptly announced it wouldn't deal with the coalition and has called on foreign donors to maintain the aid embargo until the government meets the international conditions. But Norway immediately recognized the new coalition and announced it would lift sanctions.

Britain and the United Nations signaled flexibility - suggesting money could start flowing again if the coalition keeps anti-Israel activities in check.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.