Palestinian Territories form unity government

On 2 June a Palestinian unity government, containing Fatah and Hamas, has been sworn in. According to media this event marks a “key step towards ending a major rift between factions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Fatah and Hamas
Fatah and Hamas have different political views concerning Israel. Fatah is in favour of a two state solution with Israel, which should be established peacefully. Hamas wants Israel to be destructed and believes an armed struggle is the right way to achieve this goal. Since 2007 the two parties governed separately. In 2006 Hamas won elections and one year later after violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas took over control in Gaza. In the past seven years a number of failed reconciliations took place. On 23 April the parties announced to unite.

Till the last moment it was not clear whether unification would occur. This had to do with a disagreement about who will be the next foreign minister and an attempt by President Mahmoud Abbas to abolish the post of prisoners’ minister. A spokesman of Hamas, Sami Abu-Zahri, said if the latter will not be solved  “Hamas will not recognize the new government.” The dispute was solved after both parties agreed that the prisoners would remain within the government portfolio and would be held by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. They further agreed to keep the current foreign minister in place. According to Quention Sommerville, BBC journalist, this shows “the fragility of this uneasy partnership.” He further argues that Hamas needs the help of President Abbas, because Gaza “is broke”. Abbas on his side needs a “political victory” due to the failure of US sponsored peace talks with Israel last month. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had a role in the meetings as well, initially“ hoped the conflict would be settled by the middle of 2014”.

The new government
The new government comprises seventeen politically independent ministers and must organise elections to be held within six months. Both parties agreed to keep nine ministers, including Prime Minister Hamdallah, in place. According to a first draft, the new government will have five ministers from Gaza. Abbas is content with the formation because “the division has greatly damaged our national case.” Hamas’ outgoing Prime Minister Ismail Haniya welcomed the new government as well.

After the ministers took the oath of office, Haniya’s government in Gaza resigned. Three Gaza-based members of the new government were denied permission by Israel to cross into the West Bank for the ceremony and therefore could not attend.

International reactions
The United States announced that they will work with the new government, a move that Israel finds “disappointing”. US Secretary of State, Kerry, telephoned with Abbas to express his “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government” and therefore will observe the developments closely. The European Union also said it is willing to give the new unity government a chance. The US and EU are the largest donors to Palestinian agencies.

Israel will not deal with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas because this party wants Israel to be destructed. Israel further argued that they will act to “prevent Palestinian elections taking place which included the participation of Hamas.”

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will hold President Abbas (Fatah) accountable “for any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.” According to him, Abbas said “yes to terrorism and no to peace” with the unity government. Netanyahu further urged world leaders not to rush to recognise the new Palestinian government.

According to Yaron Ezrahi, professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University, Palestinian unity government will form a “great threat to the refusenik policies of the Israeli right-wing government, because the excuse that Abbas does not represent the Palestinians, or that the government is half of the Palestinian nation is falling apart.”

By Laura Ritter

Sources: BBC, European Forum for Solidarity and Democracy, Palestine Network I, The Guardian I, The Guardian II, Al Jazeera I, Palestine News Network II, Al Jazeera II
Picture: BBC

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