New Palestinian Cabinet puts unity efforts at risk

New Palestinian Cabinet puts unity efforts at risk

New Palestinian Cabinet puts unity efforts at risk

Palestinian President Abbas (L) shakes hands with Prime Minister Fayyad as he is being sworn-in to the new Palestinian government in Ramallah. AA photo

A new Palestinian government in the West Bank featuring 11 new faces was sworn in on May 16 at a ceremony in Ramallah, in a move a clear sign that efforts to end the Palestinian political split are stuck.

A unity deal reached in February was to have ended five years of separate Palestinian governments, one run by Fayyad in the West Bank and the other by the Islamic militant Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, President Mahmoud Abbas was to head an interim unity government ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections. However, repeated disagreements between the two factions as well as within them have held up implementation.

Hamas slams decision

By rearranging the Cabinet in the West Bank, Fayyad and his boss Abbas signaled the split is likely to continue for some time. The 24-member government sworn on May 16 had 11 new members. According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas told the new Cabinet that its priority should be to conduct municipal elections that have been delayed repeatedly. Such elections would likely be held only in the West Bank, another sign that implementation of the unity agreement does not seem close.

The Hamas government in Gaza slammed the decision to form a new cabinet, accusing Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement he heads of abandoning reconciliation. “This strengthens the division,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told Agence France-Presse, saying it “shows clearly that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are far from implementing” the unity agreement.

In a bid to explain the decision, Abbas said he was “forced” to announce a new government after his Ramallah-based administration found itself unable to function. And he also left the door open to an 11th-hour agreement with Hamas. “If we reach an agreement with Hamas tomorrow or any time after that, this government will no longer have a role,” he said.

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