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Hamas says new cabinet shuffle proceeding

Dec. 31, 2010 12:05 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2011 11:57 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A new Gaza government cabinet is on its way, head of the committee charged with assembling the team of new ministers Khalil Al-Haya told Ma'an on Thursday.

The update came late in the day, after Islamic Jihad officials publicly declined a spot in the body, saying they would prefer to continue to remain outside of government. Days earlier, the independent PLO faction the Popular Struggle Front said it would not participate in the government for ideological reasons.

Al-Haya responded with a defense, saying that the Gaza government had every right to shuffle its cabinet. "Because Hamas forms the majority of the PLC," the official said, it has law on its side as it puts together a new cabinet. In the West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas has shuffled the appointed PA cabinet three times.

"The plan to shuffle the government is not coming out of the blue," Al-Haya said, explaining that Hamas officials had decided on the move over a year ago, "but Palestinian realities did not allow it."

The first round of consultations ahead of the shuffle were completed in the past week, Al-Haya said, and will be expanded in the second round.

"We found a common ground with many factions during the consultations," he said, adding that Hamas seeks wide participation in the new government.

Addressing concerns raised by the PSF, whose leader in Gaza said the party would only agree to take part in a new government if it was the new unity government after a conciliation deal, Al-Haya said the shuffle was a "step toward empowering national conciliation and ending division, not a step to eliminate it."

He continued, saying "the Palestinian arena obliges us to work together; we are all still under occupation and it is urgent to combine governing with resistance."

On Wednesday evening, Hamas called an all-factions meeting to discuss a unified stance in the face of what it said was increased Israeli aggression and provocation of the resistance. Reports in the Israeli press said factions agreed to stem the flow of projectiles toward Israel, but maintained the right to other forms of resistance.

Al-Haya then urged all factions to join onto the new government, saying he hoped it would strengthen Gaza.

"The international community is refusing to rebuild Gaza under the pretext that Hamas is individually controlling its affairs, so we ask all parties to join in and ensure that we can carry out the rebuilding together."

He added that the new government could provide an example of partnership ahead of national conciliation.

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