Fatah raises Hamas ire after calling for new PA government in West Bank

“Fatah’s call for forming a new government consisting of PLO factions will solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

January 28, 2019 17:28
4 minute read.
Palestinians take part in a protest calling on Hamas and Fatah factions to conclude the reconciliati

Palestinians take part in a protest calling on Hamas and Fatah factions to conclude the reconciliation, in Gaza city December 3, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)


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Hamas said on Monday that attempts by its rivals in Fatah to form a new Palestinian Authority government will deepen the crisis between the two parties and deal a severe blow to efforts to end divisions among the Palestinians.

On Sunday, the Fatah Central Council recommended that PA President Mahmoud Abbas form a government consisting of representatives of various PLO factions and independent figures. The government will replace the one headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah, said his faction has formed a special committee to negotiate with various Palestinian groups about the formation of a new government.

Hamdallah’s Ramallah-based cabinet is called the Palestinian National Consensus Government because it was established following understandings reached between Fatah and Hamas in 2014.

Fatah leaders said that in the wake of the continued crisis between their faction and Hamas, there was no point in keeping the present government in power. Some Fatah officials are also dissatisfied with the performance of Hamdallah and say they would like to see one of them replace him as prime minister.

Although he is affiliated with Fatah, Hamdallah – who previously served as president of An-Najah University in Nablus – does not hold any official position in the faction.

Fatah officials also believe that since their faction is the largest group in the PLO, it should have a strong presence in any government.

On Monday, Hamdallah signaled his readiness to step down any time he is requested to do so by Abbas.

Palestinian sources said that several senior Fatah officials were being touted as potential candidates to replace Hamdallah. Among the names being floated around: Mohammed Shtayyeh, Saeb Erekat and Azzam al-Ahmed.

“Fatah’s call for forming a new government consisting of PLO factions will solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “Our people are in need of a national unity government that would represent all Palestinians.”

Another Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, condemned Fatah’s call as a “severe blow to efforts to achieve Palestinian national unity.” The call, he said, will further deepen the crisis in the Palestinian arena and undermine our internal front.” Qassem called on Palestinians to reject “Abbas’s tampering with the Palestinian political scenery.” Abbas, he charged, is “destroying the Palestinian political system. This is an attempt by Abbas to detach the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.”

Khaled Abu Hilal, a dissident Fatah activist who heads a small Gaza-based movement called Al-Ahrar, lashed out at calls for establishing a new government. “Any government that Abbas and his team form should be presented to the [Israeli] Knesset because it does not represent the Palestinian people,” he said. “Fatah’s intention to form a political factional government in the West Bank proves that Abbas is involved with the deal of the century.”

The “deal of the century” refers to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East. Palestinians claim that the unseen plan is aimed at establishing a separate Palestinian state in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“The main goal of the new government will be to consolidate the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and eliminate what’s left of our Palestinian cause,” Abu Hilal added. He also called on all Palestinian factions not to participate in the new government.

One of the PLO groups, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced on Monday that it will not participate in the new Palestinian government. “We believe that the formation of a factional government is not one of the priorities of the Palestinian cause,” the group said in a statement. It also called for ending the “destructive split [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip]” which, it said, “has brought disasters upon the Palestinian cause.”

Azzam al-Ahmed, one of the Fatah officials whose name is being mentioned as a possible successor to Hamdallah, said that the purpose of the formation of a new government was to “disengage” from Hamas. The Palestinian National Consensus Government, he said, was formed to end the Fatah-Hamas rift. “Hamas wanted to exploit the government to manage the division, then said that the government was part of the problem,” Ahmed told Jordan’s Al-Ghad television network.

In light of the failure of the Egyptian efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah dispute, he added, ”there’s a need for a new government with a political coloring. That’s why we invited PLO factions to join the  new government. We’re not chasing after anyone. If anyone wishes to join the government, they are welcome.”

During a visit to Hebron on Monday, Hamdallah said that all attempts to “detach the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian state will not succeed. “There will be no state in the Gaza Strip and there will be no state without the Gaza Strip,” he said. “It’s not too late to restore Palestinian national unity. National unity and reconciliation are the ideal solution to ending the occupation and the deal of the century will not materialize.”

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