Hamas and Fatah resolve conflict by appointing cabinet of technocrats
Articles mingling news, commentary and history from 1) Guardian, 2) Al Arabiya, 3) JPost, 4) Ma’an news. Few are expressing opinions on what the outcome might be.
Palestine’s new unity government of technocrats. President Mahmoud Abbas, C, with his Prime Minister Rami Hamdalla on his right. Ramallah, June 2nd. Hamas accused him of rushing the announcement out before all issues had been resolved.
Ceremony paves way for long-delayed elections in Gaza and West Bank, but US expresses concern about role of Hamas
By Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem, theguardian.com
June 02, 2014
After seven years of a bitter and at times lethalrivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in , ending years of division.
The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority’s international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in Gaza and the West Bank.
Despite the US secretary of state, John Kerry, telephoning the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to express “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government” ahead of the ceremony, the US said on Monday night that it would work with the new government but that it would be “watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today”, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Israel, which suspended peace negotiations in April when a surprise reconciliation deal was signed opening the way to the appointment of the new government, reacted angrily to the deal. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, chairing a security cabinet following the signing, told ministers: “Today, Abu Mazen [as President Mahmoud Abbas is known] said yes to terrorism and no to peace.”
The meeting voted to authorise Netanyahu to impose unspecified sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, adding that it would now hold the Palestinian Authority “responsible” for any attacks originating from the Gaza Strip.
Israel also said it would act – including in the international community –to prevent Palestinian elections taking place which included the participation of Hamas.
Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah movement, has said the 17- member cabinet would comprise unaffiliated ministers and would strive to pursue peace, despite Hamas’s refusal to accept co-existence with Israel.
“Today, and after announcing the government of national unity, we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause,” Abbas said.
The announcement of the new government, ending a long and debilitating political and territorial division in Palestinian affairs, opens the way for long-delayed Palestinian elections, slated for 2015.
The ceremony took place hours after Israeli jets struck the site of what they said were two rocket launches from Gaza.
The new government will reunite Gaza and the West Bank under a single political authority for the first time since 2007, when Hamas – which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 – asserted control over the Gaza Strip, forcing out Fatah.
Since then the West Bank has been governed by Abbas and Fatah and Gaza by Hamas, which is regarded as a terrorist group in many capitals.
The swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah came Netanyahu appealed to the international community not to rush into recognising the new government, largely made up of technocrats.
Netanyahu hit out at European governments for condemning a shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels but responding with “ambiguity” to reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
“It is puzzling to me that governments in Europe that strongly criticise this act of murder speak with ambiguity and even friendliness about a unity government with Hamas, a terror organisation that carries out crimes like these,” he said.
In a sign of the potential difficulties ahead, Israel refused three Gaza-based ministers permission to travel to the West Bank for the swearing-in.
The ceremony took place after several last-minute wrangles that threatened to delay the signing, including over who would be foreign minister and an attempt by Abbas to abolish the post of prisoners’ minister, which was opposed by Hamas.
That dispute was resolved after it was agreed that the prisoners would remain within the government portfolio and would be held by prime minister Rami Hamdallah.
According to a draft obtained by AFP, the new government will have five ministers from Gaza, and will be headed by Hamdallah, , who will also hold the interior portfolio.
Abbas has already pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace quartet in that it will recognise Israel, reject violence and abide by existing agreements.
Briefing reporters a few hours before the signing ceremony, Israel’s intelligence minister, Yuval Steinlitz, a close ally of Netanyahu, insisted that the deal reasserting the Palestinian Authority’s governance over Gaza placed an obligation on Abbas to demilitarise the coastal strip as part of the Oslo peace agreement.
Israel claims that factions in Gaza have up to 12,000 missiles and rockets under their control. “Enough of these tricks,” Netanyahu said. “If this new Palestinian government has regained sovereignty over Gaza the first thing that Abbas should do is announce he is starting demilitarisation of Gaza.”
By Reuters, AFP, Al Arabiya News
June 02, 2014
Israel is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the reaction of the United States to Palestine’s newly-formed unity government, after the U.S. State Department announced that it intended to work with the newly-formed administration, Reuters reported on Monday.
“We are deeply disappointed by the comments of the (U.S.) State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government,” a government official said, according to Agence France-Presse.
“This Palestinian government is a government backed by Hamas, which is a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction,” the official told AFP, declining to be named.
Earlier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government on Monday in a reconciliation deal with Hamas Islamists, who advocate Israel’s destruction.
In its first comment since the government took office, the State Department stressed that it regarded the new Cabinet as made up of technocrats, rather than Hamas officials, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist group.
“At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily press briefing.
“Based on what we know now we intend to work with this government but will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today,” she said, referring to Abbas’ commitment to honor past peace deals and the principles underlying the peace process with Israel.
“But we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly,” she added.
Earlier on Monday, Abbas hailed the new government he had sworn in.
“Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case,” Abbas said at his Ramallah headquarters after the new cabinet was sworn in.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers hailed the establishment of a national unity government for all Palestinians after a new cabinet took its oath.
“We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Agence France Presse.
The cabinet, which is made up of political independents, comprises 17 ministers, five of them from Gaza, and is headed by prime minister Rami Hamdallah.
Hamas and the Western-backed Palestine Liberation Organization, which is dominated by Abbas’s secular Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement on April 23 to end years of bitter and sometime bloody rivalry.
In recent days, Hamas had announced that it would not support the new administration because of a decision by Abbas to scrap the Ministry for Prisoner Affairs and replace it with a committee that would have fallen outside the control of the cabinet.
But Hamas official Salah al-Bardaweel told Reuters news agency that it was agreed the ministry would be given to Hamdallah, “and the dispute between Hamas and Fatah has been resolved”.
Hamdallah had previously served as prime minister within the West Bank-based government.
Israel has urged the United States and Europe to shun any unity government supported by Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has not renounced violence.
The prisoners’ minister deals with Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Palestinians view the detainees as freedom fighters while Israel denounces them as terrorists.
Despite Israeli accusation that US is sanctioning terrorism, the US insists that interim gov’t ministers not affiliated with the terrorist organization.
June 04, 2014
Following the Israeli outcry against the United States’ sanctioning of terrorism in their stated intention to establish ties with the Fatah-Hamas unity government, the US reiterated its position on the matter and insisted that the technocratic members of the interim Palestinian government were not affiliated with Hamas.
“No members of Hamas and no ministers affiliated with Hamas are part of this government,” said US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf in a press briefing on Tuesday night.
“Most of the key cabinet positions, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers, and the finance minister, are the same as in the prior government,” she added. “They are all technocrats unaffiliated with any political party and are responsible for facilitating new elections.”
On Monday Israeli officials called on the US administration to push Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to end his pact with Hamas and return to peace talks with Israel.”
Much to Israel’s dismay, the European Union, China and the United Nations also stated that they would cooperate with the new Palestinian unity government, which Israeli considers to be “a government backed by a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
By Ma’an News
June 04, 2014
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — As world powers ignored Israel’s calls to reject the Palestinian government formed Monday, Palestinian leaders hailed the West Bank-Gaza reconciliation pact as a way for citizens of both territories to unite against occupation.
“Palestinians can now speak with one voice,” says Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti. “We are now unified to end occupation.”
The Israelis “were using the division as an excuse,” Barghouti told Ma’an.
“They said, ‘We can’t make peace with Palestinians because they are divided.’ Now they say, ‘We can’t make peace with Palestinians because they’re unified.'”
Israeli authorities declared an end to the latest round of peace talks with Palestinians in April after the Fatah-led PLO announced a surprise reconciliation deal with Hamas, its Islamist rival which had controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. The deal led to Monday’s implementation of a technocratic government made up of politically independent Palestinian ministers.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to attain American and European disapproval over the new government failed, his office took to Twitter in a campaign against Palestinian unity.
PM of Israel ✔ @IsraeliPM
RT THIS: Meet President Abbas’ new partners: Hamas suicide bombers murdered hundreds of Israelis.
5:49 PM – 2 Jun 2014
But Barghouti said Israelis were in reality not as concerned with Hamas as they were about the idea of Palestinians being unified.
“We are not only unified, but we’re bringing back our democratic system,” he said. “Israel would prefer to keep claiming it is the only democracy in the region.”
Presidential and legislative elections are to be held within six months, President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday. Abbas’ presidential term technically ended in early 2009.
Gaza stands to gain
In addition to holding long-delayed elections, many Palestinians hope the new government will improve the livelihoods of the Gaza Strip’s nearly 2 million residents who faced isolation throughout Hamas’ rule.
Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Ma’an that Hamas “joined itself to the Palestinian cause” for the good of the people.
Hamas’ decision to relinquish power over Gaza will “strengthen exterior relationships with other governments,” said Dweik, who is a leading member of the Islamist movement.
When the Palestinian faction took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel imposed a crippling economic siege that critics have called a form of collective punishment. Meanwhile, Egypt’s heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza have often left Palestinians in the coastal enclave with nowhere to turn for resources.
“Point one on the agenda (of the new government) is to end to blockade of Gaza by Egypt on one side and Israel on the other,” Dweik said.
Barghouti concurred, saying unity “enhances our ability to push back the Israeli siege at the international level.”
Initially, however, Israel seemed unwilling to halt its aggression against Gazans, as ministers announced Monday that the Palestinian Authority would now be held accountable for all rockets fired by militant groups in Gaza.
Barghouti responded: “Mr. Netanyahu himself will now be responsible for all violence against Palestinians,” explaining that an attack on Gaza could now not be justified as an attack on Hamas, but on all Palestinians.
Israel’s military offensives on Gaza in 2008-9 and 2012 killed over 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
Tension over prisoners, ‘collaboration’
Regardless of the official optimism about a new government, many Palestinians have expressed concerns, especially over a decision to dissolve the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs.
Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the unity government, announced Monday that the ministry would be replaced by a committee.
The fate of the ministry was a major point of contention ahead of the government’s inauguration, with Abbas calling for its dissolution in response to US pressure.
Hamas officials threatened to pull out of the unity deal if the ministry was dissolved, but quickly backed down from the ultimatum as the government was sworn in the same day.
Leila Khaled, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, shared Hamas’ concerns about the prisoners ministry in a statement Wednesday.
“While our prisoners are hunger-striking against the Israeli jailer and popular support for them is increasing, the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs has been dissolved,” Khaled said, referring to an ongoing hundreds-strong hunger strike against Israel’s policy of administrative detention.
“It has been replaced by a committee, and this sends the wrong message to Palestinian prisoners.”
Khaled was also concerned about the new government’s apparent commitment to “security coordination” with Israel, which Abbas recently called “sacred.”
“The rights of Palestinians are sacred and not security collaboration with the Israeli occupation,” Khaled said.
Still, she added that the PFLP was hopeful that the new government was “a serious step in ending the division.”
“National unity is a basic condition to win against the enemy,” she said.