RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the “end” of Palestinian division as a new government took its oath yesterday under a unity deal between leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.
“Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case,” Abbas said at his Ramallah headquarters after the new cabinet was sworn in.
“This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back,” he said.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers also welcomed the new government as one for “all Palestinians” after the cabinet, which is made up of political independents, was sworn in. “We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
The new government, he said, was “a turning point... enabling us to unite the Palestinian effort to face the Israeli occupation”.
Ismail Haniyah, the outgoing Palestinian prime minister in Gaza, said in a speech in the enclave that it was “a historical day” that closed a “chapter of seven years of division”.
In his address, Haniyah spoke of pursuing “resistance by all forms”, an apparent reference to actions that include armed conflict with Israel, and he said the unity deal meant that Hamas’ militia, the Qassam Brigades, “became an army today”.
In the absence of Fatah forces in Gaza, Hamas will effectively retain its security grip in the territory, where in addition to the 25,000-member Qassam Brigades, the Islamist group also controls 20,000 other armed personnel.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is dominated by Abbas’ Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation deal with Islamist rivals Hamas on April 23 that aimed to end a years-long intra-Palestinian split. The deal gave the sides five weeks to appoint an interim “independent government” of technocrats, paving the way for elections within six months.
Hamas won a landslide victory in the last parliamentary elections in 2006. But the European Union and the United States have refused to have any dealings with the Islamist movement until it renounces violence, recognises Israel and accepts past agreements.
Representatives of the rival factions have held several rounds of talks to heal the rift which turned violent when Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza in deadly clashes in 2007. The April reconciliation deal incensed Israel, putting the final nail in the coffin of nine months of US-brokered peace talks.
List of the new Palestinian government: Rami Hamdallah: Prime minister (also interior and prisoners’ affairs), Ziyad Abu Amr: Deputy prime minister (cultural affairs), Mohammed Mustafa: Deputy prime minister from Gaza (economy affairs), Riyad Al Malki: Foreign affairs, Shukri Bishara: Finance, Salim Al Saqa: Justice, Shawki Al Ayaseh: Agriculture and social affairs, Mamun Abu Shahla: Labour, Khawla Al Shakhshir: Education and higher education, Yussuf Ideis: Religious affairs/awqaf, Mufid Hasayneh: Housing and public works, Adnan Al Husseini: Jerusalem affairs, Rula Maaya:Tourism and antiquities, Allam Mussa: Transport, telecommunications and IT, Jawad Awad: Health, Nayef Abu Khalaf: Local government, Haifa Al Agha: Women’s affairs, Ali Abu Diak: Cabinet secretary.