RAMALLAH: A Palestinian unity government was sworn in yesterday after a landmark reconciliation deal with the Islamist movement Hamas that Israel plans to boycott but Washington said it will work with.
President Mahmoud Abbas, following a ceremony at the Muqataa presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hailed “the end” of a bitter divide between his Fatah movement and rival Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Hamas said the new government represented “all Palestinians,” adding it was a “turning point” in its relations with Fatah, which dominates Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA).
The long-awaited new cabinet was the product of an internal agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which has been blacklisted by Washington and the European Union as a “terror organisation”.
Standing on a red carpet lined with Palestinian flags, the new ministers filed past, each laying their hand on either a Koran or a Bible to take the oath of office as Abbas stood by.
It is the first Palestinian unity government for seven years.
“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.
“We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
The new cabinet counts 17 ministers, all of them political independents. It includes five ministers from Gaza.
Shortly after the ceremony, Gaza’s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya and his cabinet resigned.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a security cabinet meeting that threatened new sanctions against the PA.
WASHINGTON: The United States yesterday said it will work with the Palestinian unity government and maintain aid.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington believes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government... that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”
“With what we know now, we will work with this government,” Psaki said.
The United States “will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles” of non-violence and recognition of the state of Israel, she warned, while confirming that millions of dollars in US aid to the PA would continue.