Palestinian sources said PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, slated to serve as premier in the anticipated unity government, will visit Washington, DC in June, Israel Radio reported Friday. Hamdallah will meet with lawmakers and senior administration officials, according to the sources.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chose Hamdallah Thursday to head the unity government, but the announcement of the government’s lineup was held up over the foreign affairs portfolio, officials said.
A visit to the US for talks with US administration officials, if confirmed, could signal ongoing American support for the Palestinian leadership despite moves toward reconciliation between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas. But the White House denied Palestinian reports that Hamdallah had been invited to meet with “White House and Congress officials,” a report that at least one Palestinian official said Thursday represented US recognition and acceptance of the planned unity government.
Abbas sent a “letter of designation” to Hamdallah, who is currently serving as premier within the West Bank-based government, an official in Ramallah said.
“The government is ready, but there is only one problem, and that is that Fatah and Hamas reject Riyad al-Maliki as foreign minister, something Abbas is insisting on,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Maliki is a veteran diplomat who has served as foreign minister since 2007.
Hamas and the Western-backed PLO, which is dominated by Abbas’s secular Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement on April 23 to end years of bitter and sometime bloody rivalry. Under the terms of the deal, the two sides would work together to form an “independent government” of technocrats that would pave the way for long-delayed elections. The agreement gave them five weeks to set up a unity government, which was to have been announced by May 28.
“If this issue is resolved today and Abbas agrees not to appoint Maliki, then the government will be announced in the next few hours,” the official said.
Israel suspended peace talks with Abbas over the unity pact, saying it would not negotiate with a government supported by Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction.
AFP contributed to this report.