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 minister.

On March 10, 2003, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved the proposed amendment to the Basic Law, creating the position of a PA prime minister.

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 minister.

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 any law.”

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 emergency.”

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.”

Palestinian political 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 2011.

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.

A top 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 said.

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 minister.

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.”

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