Palestinians across the political spectrum on Tuesday criticized the
Qatar-sponsored Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement according to which
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would also serve as prime minister
of an interim unity government.
They pointed out that it was Abbas who in
March 2003 called for amending the Palestinian Basic Law so that the PA
president would not be in charge of the government.
Backed by the
Americans and Europeans, Abbas then sought to limit the powers of his
predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who also served as the de facto prime
On March 10, 2003, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved
the proposed amendment to the Basic Law, creating the position of a PA prime
The hope back then was that the changes in the Basic Law would
lead to the separation of the powers of the president and the prime
By agreeing to be prime minister of a unity government, Abbas
is acting in violation of the same amendment to the Basic law that he fought to
pass 12 years ago.
Abbas supporters, however, defended the move, arguing
that ending the power struggle with Hamas was “more important than respecting
This is not the first time that Abbas has acted in violation of
the Palestinian Basic Law.
In June 2007, following the collapse of the
Fatah-Hamas unity government and the Islamist movement’s violent takeover of the
Gaza Strip, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister, citing “national
Fayyad’s government was never approved by the Palestinian
legislature in accordance with the Basic law.
Anis al-Qassem, a
constitutional lawyer who drafted the Basic law, was among many Palestinians who
criticized the appointment of Fayyad as “illegal.”
analyst Hani al-Masri pointed out that the Doha Declaration that was signed on
Monday between Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was in violation of the
Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement that was reached in Cairo in May
The Egyptian deal envisages the establishment of a government that
is dominated by independent figures, Masri noted. “That’s why the announcement
that President Abbas would head the unity government came as a surprise to
many,” the analyst said.
Another political analyst, Khalil Shaheen, said
the appointment of Abbas as prime minister meant that the Palestinians were
“marching backward.” He added that the move was illegal and in violation of the
[Egyptian-brokered] reconciliation pact between Hamas and Fatah.
Fatah official in Ramallah said there was “strong opposition” in his faction and
the PLO to the Doha Declaration, mainly because of the intention to appoint the
76-year-old Abbas as prime minister.
“This is a scandal not only because
it violates the [Palestinian] Basic Law, but also because it turns Abbas into an
autocrat with absolute powers. This is unacceptable at a time when the Arab
world is witnessing popular uprisings against dictators,” the official
Abbas already holds at least four titles: PA president, head of the
PLO Executive Committee, chairman of the Fatah Central Committee and Overall
Commander of the Palestinian Armed Forces.
Some Palestinians resorted to
Facebook to voice their opposition to the appointment of Abbas as prime
In a sarcastic comment, Palestinian activist Ruba al-Najjar
wrote: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas congratulates the new
prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and invites him to meet with the chairman of the
Fatah Central Committee, Mahmoud Abbas, under the auspices of the head of the
PLO Executive Committee, Mahmoud Abbas, at the home of the overall commander of
the Palestinian Armed Forces, Mahmoud Abbas.”