Abbas Names PM to Head Unity Cabinet, Disputes Persist

RAMALLAH (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday asked Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to head a new national unity government which will bring together the feuding Hamas and Fatah parties.

The announcement satisfies a five-week deadline following the groups’ reconciliation pact on April 23, but the two sides have yet to publish a list of ministers drawn from independent technocrats, suggesting that disagreements persist.

“This letter designates Doctor Rami Hamdallah to form a new transitional government. I wish him luck in this difficult task which he will undertake,” Abbas said in a swift ceremony with the prime minister at his side.

Some sources close to the government talks say disputes remain primarily over who should be foreign minister.

But other sources quoted by the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper indicated the two groups were at odds over more than that.

They said that one obstacle is related to the status of the Palestinian security forces. Hamas refuses to permit Fatah-dominated security forces to return to the Gaza Strip, they said.

The second obstacle centers on PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash. Abbas insists on keeping Habbash in his job, while Hamas says it won’t sit in any government with him, as he has been an outspoken critic of Hamas since he defected from it several years ago.

Yet another point of contention is Hamas’s demand that 40,000 of its people be added to the PA’s payroll. Abbas says there’s no money for it.