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Former Palestinian PM Fayyad visits Gaza, Ramallah to push unity government

Fayyad said to meet with PA President Abbas, Hamas officials to advance initiative that could see him take the top spot

Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in June 2011. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in June 2011. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad has been shuttling between Gaza and the West Bank in recent days to promote a political initiative that could see him return to his previous position, a knowledgeable Palestinian source said on Monday.

Fayyad held meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and with Hamas officials in Gaza, according to the source.

An Abbas spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The Palestinian Authority has seen declining popularity in surveys in recent months. In April, Abbas effectively cancelled the first planned Palestinian elections in 16 years. Recently, the West Bank has seen scattered protests calling for an end to Abbas’s 16-year rule, sparked by the death of a PA critic while in the custody of Ramallah’s security forces.

According to the source, Fayyad is pushing a political initiative that would see a temporary national Palestinian unity government formed with himself as premier, replacing current Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. After a year or two, the unity government would hold national Palestinian elections.

“There’s not been any opposition, nor has anyone proposed an alternative, but there’s considerable hesitation,” the source said.

The initiative would see a Palestinian government that includes the Hamas terror group, an idea popular among many Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2012 (Issam Rimawi/Flash90/ File)

Fatah, the Palestinian faction Abbas chairs, said in a statement that Fayyad had visited the Gaza Strip, but that they were uninvolved with the trip.

“Dr. Fayyad’s visit is purely for his own purposes, he is not charged with any official business, it was a personal trip,” tweeted Mounir Jaghoub, a Fatah spokesperson.

Fayyad garnered international support during his time as prime minister between 2007 and 2013. A technocrat with a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, Fayyad sought to pragmatically advance Palestinian governance on the ground in the absence of a Palestinian state.

Fayyad’s reforms were controversial, and he stepped down in 2013, to be replaced by his successor Rami Hamdallah. In a recent poll of the Palestinian public as to who should succeed Abbas, Fayyad received 3 percent of the vote.

A diplomatic source in Ramallah dismissed the significance of Fayyad’s initiative. They said the most important challenges facing the PA was to regain its eroding popularity legitimacy, hold democratic elections “sooner rather than later” and ending Palestinian political division.

“Whether Fayyad or someone else would be the most appropriate choice as prime minister is a secondary matter,” the source told The Times of Israel.

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