Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s resignation on Sunday, announced Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency.

Abu Rudaineh said that Abbas asked Hamdallah to serve as caretaker until a new prime minister is sworn in.

Hamdallah submitted his resignation to Abbas last Thursday, less than three weeks after he succeeded former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad. Since then, Abbas and Hamdallah tried to resolve the crisis, but to no avail.

Hamdallah resigned in protest against the appointment by Abbas of two deputy prime ministers with expanded authorities: Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr. On Friday, Hamdallah agreed to withdraw his resignation after meeting with Abbas in Ramallah for nearly two hours.

But the following day, Hamdallah insisted that his deputies be removed or have their powers cut as a precondition for taking back the resignation, a PA official said.

Hamdallah’s demand reportedly angered Abbas, who decided to accept the resignation and search for another prime minister, the official said.

Hamdallah’s decision to step down caught Abbas and the PA leadership by surprise.

Another PA official told The Jerusalem Post that there was “no reason” for Hamdallah to resign.

“From day one, Hamdallah knew that this was the government of President Abbas,” the official said. “Hamdallah agreed to have two deputy prime ministers and declared after he was sworn in that he acknowledged that this was the government of President Abbas.”

The official admitted that Hamdallah’s resignation – 18 days after assuming office – had embarrassed Abbas and the PA leadership.

A Twitter account under the name of Hamdallah quoted him as saying: “The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform.” However, the Palestinian Government Media Center claimed that Hamdallah does not have a Twitter account.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted a “senior and informed source” as saying that Abbas had provided the new PA government from the beginning with a “political cover.” The source said Abbas had not spared any effort to “provide the government with all the elements of success.”

According to the source, the issue of the PA prime minister’s powers are “nonnegotiable because matters are clear and the PLO has its duties and missions while the government has its own duties and missions.”

Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker for the Palestinian Legislative Council and a longtime critic of the PA leadership, said that there was no point in having a prime minister “at a time when President Abbas has a monopoly over all the executive branch’s authorities.”

Khraisheh said that the real reason Hamdallah resigned was because he discovered the prime minister has no power.

“The presence of two deputy prime ministers, who are friends of President Abbas, means that the prime minister is a powerless figure,” he explained. Khraisheh said that Hamdallah’s resignation and the controversy over the prime minister’s authorities “confirm that there is a deep crisis” in the PA’s governance style.

Jamal Muhaissen, a senior Fatah official, told the Quds Net news agency that it would be better if Abbas himself headed the government within the framework of a national reconciliation agreement with Hamas.

He said that if Fatah and Hamas fail to reach an agreement, the next prime minister would be from the Fatah Central Committee.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamdallah’s resignation reflected the “state of confusion in the Palestinian Authority,” and the only way to resolve the crisis is by implementing reconciliation agreements reached between Fatah and Hamas.

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