A meeting in Egypt Saturday between rival political factions Fateh, represented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, represented by Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, was largely successful.

Plans were made to begin the Palestinian legislative session on Feb. 16, at which point President Abbas plans to formally endorse the Hamas-led parliament which was elected by Palestinians last week, according to Nabil Abu Rodena, Abbas’ spokesperson.  Abu Rodena made clear that the timeframe for forming a government will not be forced onto Hamas, but if Abbas’ request is formalized, they will be given five weeks.

Al-Zahar, who has criticized the Abbas regime for perceived corruption and mismanagement, seemed pleased with the result of Saturday’s meeting, saying, "We are starting the process and we are sure that within February we will be able to see a new government".  The Hamas government, if formed as planned in February, will likely be a coalition government with the previous ruling party, Fateh.  Hamas has indicated several times since their electoral victory their willingness to partner with Fateh, if the Fateh leadership is willing.  But Fateh legislative leader Ismail Haniyeh indicated Saturday night that if the partnership fails, Hamas is ready and willing to form a government on their own.

The meeting follows several days of consultations by President Abbas with various foreign leaders, including representatives from Jordan and Egypt.

Later Saturday night, Israeli Radio quoted Hamas legislative head Haniyeh as saying that negotiations with Israel were not on the party’s agenda at this time.