Palestinian Authority FM says Hamas can’t be part of PA government for now

Riyad al-Maliki says technocratic administration needed to rush help to Gazans because unity with terror group will lead to boycotts, but leaves door open to future cooperation

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a press conference on the sideline of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 28, 2024. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a press conference on the sideline of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 28, 2024. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands why it should not be part of a new government in the Palestinian territories.

Speaking a day before representatives of Hamas and the Fatah political faction dominating the PA were set to meet in Moscow for talks on forming a unified Palestinian government, Maliki downplayed their chances for success and told a press conference that a “technocratic” government was needed, without the Islamist terror group.

“The time now is not for a national coalition government,” Maliki said.

“The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he told the UN correspondents’ association.

“We don’t want to be in a situation like that. We want to be accepted and engaging fully with the international community,” he explained.

On Monday, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the resignation of his government, citing the need for change after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza ends.

A decree from PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the government will stay on in an interim capacity until a new one is formed.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a cabinet meeting during which he announced his government’s resignation and called for ‘new political measures’ in Ramallah on February 26, 2024. (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

Maliki said the priority was engaging the international community to help provide emergency relief to Palestinians, and then looking at how Gaza could be reconstructed.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza was sparked on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israel in a brutal onslaught that left some 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, and kidnapping 253 others, while carrying out atrocities including rape and torture. The Israeli government has vowed to eliminate the terror group, which has ruled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-led PA in a bloody 2007 coup.

Maliki, who is in Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council, said he hoped Hamas support for the technocratic government would emerge from unity talks scheduled to take place on Thursday in Moscow, with unity unlikely.

“Of course, we don’t expect miracles to happen in just a simple meeting in Moscow, but I believe that the meeting in Moscow should be followed by other meetings in the region soon,” he said.

Illustrative: A handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority’s press office (PPO) shows (L to R) Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (2nd-L) meeting with Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune (2nd-R) and with Palestinian Hamas movement’s leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) during Abbas’ svisit to attend Algeria’s 60th independence anniversary in Algiers, July 5, 2022. (Thaer Ghanaim/AFP PHOTO/HO/PPO)

Despite US backing for Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, Maliki indicated that Fatah was still open to working together with the terror group.

“Later, when the situation is right, then we could contemplate that option. But what comes first is how to salvage the situation. How to salvage innocent Palestinian lives. How to stop this insane war and how to be able to protect Palestinian people,” he said.

“That’s why I think Hamas should understand this, and I do believe that they are in support of the idea to establish, today, a technocratic government.”

“A government that is based on experts, individuals who are completely committed to take up the reins and the responsibility for this period — a difficult one — and to move the whole country into a period of transition into a stable kind of situation where, at the end, we might be able to think about elections… [that] will determine the type of government that will govern the state of Palestine later.”

A view of the destruction in Gaza, February 22, 2024. (AFP/ Said Khatib)

Analysts have dismissed the PA government reshuffle as a bid by Abbas to preempt US demands for reforms aimed at “revitalizing” the Palestinian administration to allow it to take control of Gaza once fighting ends. Some have noted that the new government will remain under the thumb of Abbas, a deeply unpopular and aging leader who has refused to hold elections since 2009.

Speaking in Munich earlier this month, Shtayyeh said Fatah was ready to discuss bringing Hamas back into the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ official representative body, but only if it met certain conditions.

“In order for Hamas to be a member of the PLO, there have to be prerequisites that Hamas has to accept — the political platform of the PLO, an understanding on the issue of resistance and we are calling for popular resistance and nothing else,” he said.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group say they seek a place in the PLO, but that it should be reformed to align with their rejection of Israel.

Israel has pointed to the possibility of PA-Hamas unity as a reason why the body cannot take control of Gaza once troops pull out.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, the war in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people there, most of them women and children. The numbers, which do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, cannot be independently verified.

The Israel Defense Forces says 242 soldiers have been killed in battles against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It says troops have killed some 12,000 Hamas-led fighters in the Strip, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists killed inside Israel on October 7 and several days after.

Most Popular
read more: