Palestinian Authority PM Rami Hamdallah tenders resignation

All PA ministers join move, two days after Fatah Central Committee recommended forming a new government, apparently to up the pressure on Hamas

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah attends a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, conference, in Rome, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah attends a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, conference, in Rome, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tendered his resignation on Tuesday, a spokesman said.

“He and the rest of the government ministers resigned,” Ahmad Shami, one of Hamdallah’s spokesmen, told The Times of Israel, adding that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would now have to decide whether to accept their resignations.

Hamdallah’s decision to submit his resignation came two days after the Fatah Central Committee recommended the formation of a government made up of representatives of factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization and independent personalities.

Shami said that if Abbas accepts their resignations, Hamdallah and the other PA ministers would continue to serve until the formation of a new government.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned the PA government’s resignation, saying it was aimed at paving the way for the establishment of “a new separatist government” that serves Abbas and his Fatah party’s interests.

Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Sunday that the Palestinians planned to form a new government in response to Hamas not handing over the Gaza Strip to the PA.

“We plan to form a new government of factions soon in response to Hamas’s failure to undertake its national responsibility in handing over the Gaza Strip to the legitimate PA,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organization official, told The Times of Israel. “Hamas helped form the last government. This time, it will not participate in its formation or be a part of it.”

The Palestinians formed the current PA government in 2014 with the support of Fatah and Hamas. Since its establishment, however, Abbas has carried out at least two cabinet reshuffles without Hamas’s consent.

Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since 2007, when the terror group forcibly ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from Gaza.

While the two rival parties have signed multiple agreements to advance reconciliation and bring Gaza and the West Bank under one government, they have not implemented them.

Asked who would serve as prime minister in a new PA government, Ahmad said the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership including Fatah has not discussed the names of any possible candidates.

Palestinian Authority government meeting in Ramallah on December 27, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

“Until now, absolutely no names at all have been discussed. All the rumors are totally false,” the senior Fatah official said. “Even my name has come up and no one has asked me about the job, nor have I asked about it myself.”

In a separate interview with the An-Najah Broadcasting Channel on Monday, Ahmad reiterated that the Palestinians have not spoken about the names of candidates for PA prime minister.

The Kan public broadcaster, however, quoted Palestinian sources on Sunday as assessing that Fatah Central Committee member Muhammed Shtayyeh was the front-runner to become the next PA prime minister.

Shtayyeh, a native of Nablus, formerly served as a Palestinian negotiator and PA minister of public works and housing; he has long worked on government and donor-funded infrastructure projects in the West Bank.

Hamdallah, who previously was the president of An-Najah University, where he once was a professor of the English language, also resigned in 2013 following a dispute with then-Deputy PA prime minister Mohammed Mustafa, according to a Palestinian official, who requested anonymity.

“Mustafa signed an agreement with an international institution that Prime Minister Hamdallah was supposed to sign,” the official said. “Hamdallah then resigned but came back to the job after he was assured he would be in charge of signing agreements with international groups.”

Hamdallah hails from Anabta, a village in the northern West Bank. Three of his children were killed in a car accident on a road near Nablus in 2000.

The official added that he expected Hamdallah would return to his academic work in the near future.

‘No legitimacy’

Over the past couple days, Hamas officials have stated their opposition to a new PA government that does not include them in its formation process.

“The formation of any government apart from a national consensus one is a continuation of the unilateral actions taken by Fatah,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri tweeted on Sunday. “Such a government will enjoy no legitimacy.”

Abbas has also recently pledged to hold new parliamentary elections in the coming six months, but how that would be possible in Gaza is unclear.

Hamas won the last parliamentary polls, in 2006, against expectations. Israel, the United States and other Western powers, which all consider Hamas a terrorist organization, rejected the result.

Hamas, which has sworn to destroy the Jewish state, and Israel have fought three wars in Gaza since then.

AFP contributed to this report.

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