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Prime Minister of Palestine Rami al-Hamdallah submitted his resignation and that of his cabinet to President Mahmoud Abbas this Tuesday. The move came as a shock to the international community and dealt a blow to faltering reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, key political parties in the region. Hamas has publicly condemned the move as an attempt to form a new government that will further exclude it from having legislative power over the struggling state. Indeed, the change in government’s structure was recommended by the Fatah Central Committee, thus, widening already existing divisions between the two sides.
Fatah has argued that the goal of establishing a new government from the factions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is to allow Palestine to better respond to the world’s significant challenges, namely Israeli-United States politics. The official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, released an announcement saying that “the government will continue to serve our people wherever they are and shoulder all its responsibilities until a new government is formed.” While the statement successfully assures the public of government stability, Hamas isn’t persuaded and questions the legitimacy of Fatah’s decision, arguing that without new elections such a move is illegal. Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, said, “Fatah has no legal right to form a new government, and its practices are a coup against the democratic process. There is no legitimacy for any future government without national consensus.” Zurhi’s sentiments appear to ring true as, without any kind of internal unity, Palestine will not be able to effectively deal with external issues and work constructively with Israel.
The dissolution of the national unity government represents a significant setback for the reconciliation deal signed between Fatah and Hamas in 2017. The agreement appears to have fallen over, as the past two years have been marred by a power struggle and disputes regarding Israel. New efforts must be made for progress to take place in Palestinian politics, which have been paralyzed since 2007 when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah. The following 12 years have seen little improvement in living conditions for those on the strip. Their suffering has only been exacerbated by punitive measures imposed by Mahmoud Abbas to try and force Hamas to hand over power in Gaza. Analysts have rightly pointed out that any such measures only worsen the living conditions of those in the area, which are already a subject to a crippling Israeli blockade. Thus, the current approach implemented by Abbas and Fatah is leading Palestine on a dangerous course that could result in civil war. Any tactic that seeks to further marginalize Hamas should be discouraged, and the international community should make it a priority to get all sides to the bargaining table to discuss ways to resolve Palestine’s internal issues.
The argument posed by Fatah is that Hamas, following the 2006 parliamentary elections, isolated itself after failing to execute various agreements. However, Hamas has rightly mentioned that Abbas, whose 4-year term as president officially ended in 2009 is seeking to establish a Fatah government to serve his interests. Whatever the actual case may be, the constant exchange of accusations over the past 12 years demonstrates how weak the relationship between the two factions is and poses a grave human security risk to those who could potentially be caught in the crossfire.
The proposed formation of a new government by PLO factions is unwise and would run against the democratic expectations held by those in both Gaza and the West Bank. It would seem as if both parliamentary and presidential elections are needed to install a government who accurately represents the people. The international community should feel obliged to facilitate this and help provide a smooth transition away from the increasingly problematic regime of President Mahmoud Abbas.