Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on the make-up of a national unity government on Tuesday in the most significant step yet toward ending their seven-year rift.
The two groups said they had decided on a list of independent, technocrat ministers who will run the government pending elections in at least six months — moves they hope will revive institutions paralyzed since the parties fought a brief civil war in 2007.
Officials from the two sides told a news conference in the Gaza Strip that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will make a formal announcement of the new government later this week after choosing a religious affairs minister.
“The viewpoints of the Hamas and Fatah movements will be presented to President (Abbas) to give his final decision on the government line-up,” Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said.
The two factions agreed that current Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah, a former president of An-Najah National University in Shechem picked by Abbas, will lead the new cabinet.
Sources close to the unity talks said Hamdallah would also assume the sensitive post of interior minister, and that the current ministers of foreign affairs and finance will stay on.
They said a formal swearing-in ceremony will be held later in the week at Abbas’s seat of government in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, writing in Yisrael Hayom on Tuesday, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval, rejected the notion that a technocratic government would be a viable way to circumvent objections to the participation of the terrorist Hamas.
“This argument is not exactly convincing, as half of the ministers will be appointed by Hamas, a group that the U.S. itself has defined as a terrorist organization. The practical result is that the U.S. will ipso facto become a dialogue partner with a terrorist government,” Shoval argued, in response to unconfirmed reports that Washington intends to recognize the unity government.”
Shoval observed that the unity pact may not dissolve this time, like similar attempts in the past, and suggested what could be expected from it:
“I will not go into the various theories regarding the Palestinian ‘reconciliation’ or the doubts about the veracity or durability of this dubious move, but it is not inconceivable that this time Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders are striving for something more than just an appearance of unity.
“It certainly may be that the move will set the needle in the direction of extremism, rather than moderation. Hamas officials have made it clear that they plan to follow the ‘Hizbullah model’ from Lebanon. That is to say it will place a very limited role in civilian and administrative matters, but will reserve for itself total freedom of action as a ‘popular resistance organization.’ The implication is clear: gaining political legitimacy while maintaining the terror option.”