Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and negotiators from the Islamic militant Hamas group have reached agreement in principle on a new government, but they still need to wrap up some important details, a Hamas Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Top Hamas leaders also have yet to decide whether to accept the compromise proposal.
Under the emerging plan, the current Hamas-led Cabinet would step aside in favor of a government of experts, in hopes that it would be acceptable to the West and help end a crippling international aid boycott.
Hamas would appoint eight ministers and Abbas' Fatah would choose four, with the remainder of the portfolios awarded to smaller parties.
The new prime minister would be chosen by Hamas, and a key sticking point is over how close he should be to the ruling party. Abbas has urged Hamas to choose an independent, in order to make the new government more attractive to the international community, Abbas aides have said.
Hamas' top decision-making body, the secret Shura Council, is to decide in the coming days whether to accept the proposal. If Hamas accepts, Abbas is to head to Gaza for a meeting with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Wasfi Khabaha, a Hamas Cabinet minister, said he expected the meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh to take place by tomorrow.
"We can say we have reached an agreement with the brothers in Fatah, but there are some points that need to be finalized between the president and the prime minister," he said.
Negotiations have broken down repeatedly in the past. At one stage, Abbas and Haniyeh had reached an agreement, but Hamas withdrew its support, balking at key points in the government platform, including an implicit recognition of Israel.
The platform of the new government is to be intentionally vague, and it is not clear whether it will be acceptable to the international community.