Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has resigned, just days after Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to form a new government.
In a statement today, PA spokesperson Yusuf Al-Mahmoud said that “the prime minister and his ministers welcome [Fatah, the Palestinian faction which dominates the PA]’s decision to form a new government,” adding that: “Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has placed his government at the disposal of the President of the Authority [Abbas].”
Hamdallah confirmed the statement in a tweet, writing that: “We put our government at the disposal of President Mahmoud Abbas and we welcome the recommendations of the Fatah Central Committee to form a new government.”
Hamdallah’s resignation came following a request by Abbas this weekend after the latter announced that a new Palestinian government would be formed. Commentators have seen this as a bid by Fatah to strengthen its grip over the PA in the wake of declining popular support and challenges from other Palestinian factions, namely Hamas – which governs the besieged Gaza Strip.
Though Hamdallah is affiliated with Fatah, he does not hold an official position in the organisation. Some Fatah leaders have been disappointed with his performance as prime minister, leading them to seek a “friendlier” alternative, the Jerusalem Post reported. Although it not yet clear who will head the new government, some names have already been floated, including: Minister of the Palestinian Economic Council Mohammed Shtayyeh; Secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee Saeb Erekat; and Member of Fatah’s Executive Committee Azzam Al-Ahmed.
Abbas’ new government will be comprised only of members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – a symbolic umbrella organisation made up of a number of Palestinian factions. However, since Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not part of the PLO, they will not be included in the new government.
The move has been interpreted as a deliberate bid to exclude Hamas – which won the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections in 2006 – from government. Hamas has slammed Abbas’ plans, with the movement’s spokesman Fawzi Barhoum saying: “Fatah’s call for forming a new government consisting of PLO factions will solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Another Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, called the move a “severe blow to efforts to achieve Palestinian national unity,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
Other Palestinian factions have refused to take part in forming the new government, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in a bitter feud since the latter’s victory in the PLC elections. When Fatah refused to cede control of the government, a war broke out between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Hamas emerged victorious and has governed the besieged enclave since 2007.
The current PA government has been in place since mid-2014 and was meant to act as a “national unity government” following a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas. However, the deal quickly broke down in the wake of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. Since then, Abbas has rebuffed any engagement with Hamas, imposing sanctions on the Strip, refusing to hold elections and dissolving the PLC.