Abbas swears in Hamas-free PA government

Fayad to remain prime minister; Hamas officials: Move is tantamount to a "death certificate."

abbas dark side 248.88  (photo credit: AP)
abbas dark side 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Ignoring warnings from Hamas and his own Fatah faction, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new government headed by current Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on Tuesday. Hamas and Fatah decided to boycott the new government, each for its own reasons. In addition, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People's (Communist) Party said they had turned down an offer to join the government. Hamas officials said that Abbas's move was tantamount to a "death certificate" for Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks aimed at reaching agreement on the formation of a Palestinian unity government. Fatah, on the other hand, said it decided to boycott the new Fayad government because its representatives had not been consulted beforehand. Disagreements in Fatah prompted two officials to turn down Abbas's invitation to serve as ministers shortly before the swearing-in ceremony at the Mukata compound in Ramallah. Despite Fatah's decision to boycott the government, 10 members of the faction accepted ministerial portfolios on an individual basis. Their decision is viewed as a sign of the deepening crisis in Fatah, which is already in turmoil over its failure to hold its sixth general assembly for the past two decades. Last week Abbas announced that he would convene the long-awaited conference in Jericho or Bethlehem on July 1, triggering a crisis in Fatah between those who favor holding the meeting in the West Bank and those who insist it should be held in one of the Arab countries. Among the Fatah representatives who joined Fayad's government are Hatem Abdel Kader (Jerusalem Affairs), Khaled Qawasmeh (Local Government), Muhammad Shtayeh (Housing and Public Works), Sa'di al-Krunz (Transportation) and Said Abu Ali (Interior). The new government consists of 24 ministers, including the prime minister, seven of whom were already serving in the previous Fayad government, such as Foreign Minister Riad Malki. In addition to his post as prime minister, Fayad will continue to hold the Finance portfolio. For the first time since the establishment of the PA in 1994, the government does not have a Ministry for Prisoners Affairs - something that has also drawn sharp criticism from almost all the Palestinian factions. "Fatah is strongly opposed to this government because we were not consulted about the make-up," said Fatah operative Ashraf Juma'ah. "This is an illegitimate government and Fatah won't vote in favor of it in parliament." Azzam al-Ahmed, head of Fatah's parliamentary list, expressed regret over Abbas's decision to ignore his faction's demand not to entrust Fayad of the Third Way Party with forming the new government. He also criticized Fayad for totally ignoring Fatah during the consultations to form the new government, although he had met with representatives of other factions. Ahmed launched a scathing attack on the Fatah members who decided to join Fayad's government, saying they did not represent the faction and that they had acted on their own. Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said that the Fayad government did not represent the Palestinians. "Any government must be approved by a majority of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and this is what the Fayad government is lacking," he said. Abbas's decision to form a new government in the West Bank was an indication of the ongoing "political, legal and constitutional chaos," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. He accused Abbas of seeking to "deliberately sabotage" Fatah-Hamas negotiations aimed at achieving "national reconciliation." The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it would comment on the developments in the next few days.