Academic set for Palestinian 'unity' leadership

A US-educated microbiologist who used to be president of Gaza's Islamic University is emerging as a possible candidate to head the "national unity" government that Palestinian leaders are predicting will replace the current Hamas-dominated cabinet.

Mohammed Shabir, 60, is being promoted as a compromise "technocrat" who could replace the Hamas leader Ishmail Haniyeh as Palestinian Prime Minister. Mr Haniyeh announced on Friday that he was prepared to stand down if he was an obstacle to the lifting of the economic blockade of the Palestinian Authority.

But Mr Shabir's appointment will probably only happen after further talks between Hamas and the Fatah opposition on the wider composition of a government, as well as the programme it would adopt. Mr Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, suggested last week that the process could take between two to three weeks.

Israel, which has been withholding $60m (£330m) a month in duties owed to the Palestinians since March, and the international community have insisted that they will only deal with the PA if it recognises Israel, renounces violence and abides by all agreements made by the Fatah-led predecessor authority.

Mr Abbas had indicated on Saturday that the two sides had made "great progress" on the formation of the unity government which Mr Abbas wants to agree a programme consistent with the "prisoners' document" providing for implicit rather than explicit recognition of Israel.

Other candidates for senior ministerial office being seen as potentially acceptable to the international community include Ziad Abu Amr, another Gaza academic and secular politician who is not a Hamas member but who was given backing by the faction in last January's elections.

A possible finance minister could be Salam Fayad, who is favoured by Mr Abbas, has good contacts in the Washington political and banking community, and made serious, if lonely, efforts to regulate inefficiency and corruption in the Fatah-led PA when he held the post before.

But the prospects of even forming such a government are closely linked with the question of whether the international community, in particular the US, would re-engage diplomatically and economically with coalition at the head of the PA. While Israel and Fatah have blamed Hamas's hardline exiled leadership for aborting the previous attempt to form a unity government in September, some Palestinian sources also say that an obstacle was the US insistence that nothing short of literal acceptance of the three international conditions would be acceptable.

While the US is watching developments, it is unclear whether it would be ready to soften its stance. Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said: "The issue is not who is sitting in the government but what the government says."

Suggesting the new government would be "Hamas-lite", a senior Israeli military official said last night that Hamas was building up its military infrastructure and would remain the leading player in Palestinian politics. "It will have control of the parliament, control on the ground and [control of the capacity] to make terrorist attacks. It will have influence over every process in the Palestinian arena," the official said.

The Arab League said its members had abandoned the US-led boycott of the PA in response to the US veto of a UN resolution condemning Israel's killing of 19 civilians in Beit Hanoun last Wednesday. "We decided not to co-operate. There will no longer be an international siege," Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, said.

Shabir in brief

* POLITICAL LEANINGS

Although not active in politics, Mohammed Shabir is seen as closer to Hamas than to the other Palestinian factions.

* ACADEMIC RECORD

Graduated in pharmacy at the University of Alexandria in 1968 and took a PhD at the University of West Virginia. He is seen as having successfully built up the Islamic University.

* WORLD VIEW

Told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz yesterday that he has no problem with any party. He said he would not answer questions about his views on Israel before being named to the post, but added he would act "realistically".

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz