JERUSALEM: The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and the Islamist movement Hamas, appeared on the verge of forming a historic unity government after seven years of bitter rivalry as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas named a new prime minister agreed by both sides yesterday.
The announcement brings Palestinians a substantial step closer to a final reconciliation between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas, which set up separate governments in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza following a sweeping win in legislative elections, that Fatah and the West refused to recognise.
A new unity government backed by Hamas — even a technocratic one — would be a popular move with Palestinians but poses big challenges to any attempt to revive a peace process with Israel and to Palestinian Authority’s foreign aid donors, including the US, EU and the UK. It could also bring threats of punitive measures from the government of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yesterday’s deadline for naming the new government was set five weeks ago, after Fatah and Hamas agreed to reconcile under a unity administration and the promise of long-delayed elections.
Abbas appointed Hamdallah, prime minister in the West Bank, as chief minister in the new arrangement and said he had asked him to form a government.
In a brief ceremony with Hamdallah by his side, Abbas declared: “This letter designates Dr Rami Hamdallah to form a new transitional government. I wish him luck in this difficult task which he will undertake.”
According to sources, announcement of the full government, which was expected yesterday, has been held up over disagreements over the posts of foreign and interior ministers and may now be announced next week. The five weeks of talks to secure a new government followed the announcement of a reconciliation deal as the last round of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis collapsed amid recriminations. The Guardian