Palestine Domestic Politics Part I

On January 25, 2006 – the first elections were held in January 1996 – the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council took place for the second time. Hamas was able to win 74 of the 132 seats. The previously ruling Fatah received only 45 seats. In March 2006, Ismail Haniyeh became Prime Minister of a Hamas government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After the Hamas landslide victory, violent clashes began between supporters of the two groups, in the course of which hundreds of people were killed. They culminated in June 2007 in the Gaza Strip when Hamas took control of all security installations and government buildings of the PA by force. President Mahmoud Abbas deposed the unity government formed in March 2007 under Ismail Haniyeh, declared a state of emergency and set up an emergency government under Salam Fayyed, which was converted into a transitional government a month later. Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

From then until April 2014, Palestine was divided into two parts, a Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and a Fatah-controlled West Bank. In both areas, activists from the other side were arrested and ill-treated, their facilities closed, their media banned and their demonstrations broken up. Attempts to mediate to overcome the split were completely unsuccessful by the end of April 2011.

On April 27, 2011, the representatives of Fatah and Hamas surprisingly announced the settlement of their disputes at a press conference in Cairo and announced the creation of a joint transitional government of independent technocrats, parliamentary and presidential elections as well as elections to the Palestinian National Council within one year and the reactivation of the since 2007 no longer working parliament.

According to CARSWERS, the reconciliation agreement was then ceremoniously signed on May 4, 2011 in the conference hall of the Egyptian secret service in Cairo in the presence of the representatives of the Palestinian parliamentary groups, the Egyptian foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi, the general secretary of the Arab League Amru Mussa and four Arab members of the Israeli parliament. However, this agreement was not implemented.

Another “reconciliation summit” between Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas boss Khaled Mashaal took place on November 24, 2011 in Cairo in a positive atmosphere. However, no agreements were made except to continue the talks in mid-December 2011.

On December 22, 2011, the members of the PLO Executive Committee, the heads of all Palestinian political groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the President of the Palestinian National Council Selim Zaanoun, the head of the Egyptian secret service Murad Muwafi and independent figures such as the businessman met in Cairo Munib Al Masri and decided to create a Provisional PLO Governing Committee, in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also represented, as well as the formation of a central welfare commission from members of all Palestinian groups for the elections to the Palestinian National Council. Mahmoud Abbas set up a restructured central electoral commission by decree to prepare for the presidential and parliamentary elections planned for May 2012, in which members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are represented for the first time.

On February 6, 2012, President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal agreed in Qatar on the formation of a transitional government headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The transitional government should prepare the parliamentary and presidential elections and work for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The agreement also included the release of political prisoners, reform of the Palestinian National Council, and the activation and expansion of the PLO for the next elections. This agreement, however, was of the Hamas leaders as unconstitutional rejected. They argue that the Palestinian constitution provides for the separation of the functions of prime minister and president.

President Mahmoud Abbas

At the beginning of June 2012 it was then said that Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal wanted to elect a new prime minister for the planned unity government by June 20, 2012.

Despite all efforts to reach an agreement, Salam Fayyad put together a new 25-person cabinet for the West Bank, which was sworn in on May 16, 2012. In February 2011, Mahmoud Abbas asked him to form a new government. However, after the agreement between Fatah and Hamas in April 2011, this was suspended for the time being. Mahmoud Abbas said he would continue to seek a joint government with Hamas. However, since there was no agreement on the composition, this provisional, new government would have to be formed to ensure the administration of the country. Hamas condemned the formation of a government. Its spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, said it was reinforcing the division and had no legitimacy.

On April 13, 2013, Mahmoud Abbas accepted Salam Fayyad’s resignation, but asked him to remain in office until a new government was formed. The media had previously reported tensions between Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad for a long time. In particular, there was a sharp argument in March 2013 when Salam Fayyad accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Nabil Kassis, whom Abbas wanted to keep. There were also disagreements because Salam Fayyad did not take Fatah members into account to the extent desired by Mahmoud Abbas when filling offices and instead brought independent experts into the cabinet.

On June 2, 2013 Mahmoud Abbas commissioned the President of Al-Najah University in Nablus, Rami Hamdallah, to form a new government. He was to head a transitional government for three months. Afterwards the formation of a unity government of Fatah and Hamas was planned. The then 54-year-old linguist, trained in Great Britain and Jordan, who had no experience in a political office, was also Secretary General of the Central Electoral Commission. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the appointment of Hamdallah was inadmissible because it was not approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The new government will not overcome the Palestinian division.

On June 6, 2013, the new cabinet took its oath of office in front of President Mahmoud Abbas and the members of the PLO Executive Committee. It consisted of 24 people including the Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and the Secretary General of the Cabinet. Eight members were new, three were women (six in the previous government).

After only 18 days in office, Rami Hamdallah submitted his resignation on June 20, 2013, justifying this step with restrictions on his authority. Mahmoud Abbas had provided Rami Hamdallah with two deputies who are confidants and advisers to the president and who are said to have ambitions for the office of head of government. After intensive discussions, Mahmoud Abbas finally accepted his resignation on June 23, 2013. Rami Hamdallah was supposed to continue the official business until August 14, 2013. Then a Fatah / Hamas unity government should be formed.

However, as this did not materialize, Mahmoud Abbas commissioned Rami Hamdallah again on August 13, 2013 to form a government. Exactly the same cabinet members as in the previous government were sworn in again on September 19, 2013.