Palestinian Unity Government Splits Up — Or Tries to

YERUSHALAYIM -

Even the fact of Palestinian disunity has proved too much for Fatah and Hamas to agree on, as Hamas refused on Wednesday to recognize the resignation of the Palestinian Authority ministers, which PA President Mahmoud Abbas had already accepted.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tendered the resignation of the unity government to Abbas, who charged him with forming a new government, said Nimr Hammad, a close aide to Abbas.

“Hamdallah handed his resignation to Abbas, and Abbas ordered him to form a new government,” Hammad told AFP. Discussions to form a new government would include consultations with the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, he said.

However, Hamas announced afterwards that this was a decision that had to be made together, not unilaterally by Fatah.

“Hamas rejects any one-sided change in the government without the agreement of all parties,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

The news came against the background of reports of Qatar-mediated talks between Israel and Hamas for a longterm ceasefire, and there may be a link.

“When Mahmoud Abbas heard of international envoys taking part in talks to solve the [Gaza] crisis, it caught him off guard, then he took that decision,” a Palestinian source told AFP.

“He felt there was a possibility that a solution be found without the [Palestinian] Authority being involved.”

Meanwhile, Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio on Wednesday that if reports of such a deal in the works are true, then the Israeli government would be “capitulating to terrorism.” He called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to come to any understandings with the Hamas regime in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Lieberman indicated that he would reconsider joining the Netanyahu government if building in Maalei Adumim were to proceed. But a deal with Hamas would likely cause him to banish such thoughts, since one of his reasons for not joining the coalition was his contention that Netanyahu was soft on Hamas.