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The resignation of the Palestinian government is a good thing, but what comes next?

January 30, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Istanbul, Turkey on 18 May 2018 [Berk Özkan/Anadolu Agency]

The resignation of the Palestinian Authority government led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was both expected and entirely natural. I say this because it obviously cannot fulfil its functions and tasks on a national level, especially after it became part of the problem as far as the social security crisis is concerned.

In order to decide whether this is a welcome or premature step, we need to see what is going to replace Hamdallah’s administration. A national unity government formed by all of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, seems to be the best option for the Palestinian people. If, as seems likely, this is an impossible expectation, then there must at least be a government comprised of the PLO factions.

However, for it to end up as a government that starts with Fatah and ends with elderly representatives of tiny factions would not be in the interests of the people of Palestine or their supporters. Ordinary Palestinians are suffering daily from the Israeli siege and occupation, illegal settlements and the erosion of their human and civil rights. Such a government will do nothing to alleviate their suffering.

READ: Democratic Front will not participate in PLO’s government

I am not optimistic about the chances of the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine (the PFLP and DFLP) joining the government. Whoever failed to convince them to join the PLO Central Council will not be able to convince them to take seats in the government, unless the presidency uses its persuasive magic box of motives, temptations and empty promises.

I would have preferred to see national rapprochement and for the PLO factions to become closer in order to revive the organisation before anything else because it has largely been forgotten by everyone. Even its office-bearers and members only remember it in difficult situations, usually in the context of discord and conflict with Hamas rather than as a comprehensive national strategy to confront Israel’s occupation, raise the cost of the occupation to the Israelis, and mobilise the energy and efforts of the Palestinian people around the world to face the Zionist project.

This is okay, though, as a government of “politics and politicians” is more important and effective than rule by technocrats. A government of this kind could obstruct the attempt to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. It is no secret that there is intense competition between Fatah and Hamas over the rest of the factions, as Hamas wants all in the joint command room to ensure that the truce with Israel endures. There are also projects to form an administration for Gaza scattered amongst these factions, albeit unfairly and unequally. Meanwhile, Fatah is seeking to attract the same factions to the new government. The battle over the factions is part of the wider struggle over legitimacy and representation in which the two poles of the Palestinian division are engaged.

READ: Fatah discusses forming new government without Hamas

The relationship between forming a new government and holding legislative and presidential elections is still unclear. The matter is linked to which of the factions will join the government and how they will perform therein. They could help to speed up the electoral process; speed up the process for the legislative election, say, and delay the other; or they may delay both. This could result in a weakening of the demand for elections among the factions as long as everyone is satisfied with their share of the power cake. The departure of the Hamdallah government is a good thing, but I am not so sure about the developments that will follow.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.