Palestine Domestic Politics Part II

On April 23, 2014, Hamas and Fatah again agreed to form a unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled again with the declaration that President Mahmoud Abbas had to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas and canceled planned peace talks with the Palestinian negotiators.

On June 2, 2014, the 17-member unity government of non-party experts was sworn in under the leadership of Rami Hamdallah. For the first time in seven years, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip came under the same executive power. The formation of the new government should be the first step towards a full reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Presidential and parliamentary elections were planned for early 2015, but have not yet taken place.

According to COMPUTERMINUS, Israel said it would boycott the consensus government as it was supported by Hamas. The Israeli security cabinet unanimously decided to suspend peace talks with the Palestinians. In response to the unity government, the Israeli Ministry of Housing published tenders for 1,500 new housing units in settlements.

On June 17, 2015, Mahmoud Abbas accepted Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s resignation from this government and at the same time instructed him to form a new one. In the end, there was only one reshuffle of the cabinet. Five new ministers were sworn in on July 31, 2015. Nineteen ministerial posts remained unchanged. Hamas disapproved of the government reshuffle, calling it “unconstitutional and out of consensus.”

On December 15, 2015, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah exchanged ministers for Justice, Culture and Social Affairs.

On January 29, 2019, the consensus government submitted its resignation on the recommendation of the Fatah Central Committee, but remained in office until a new government was formed.

On March 10, 2019, Mahmoud Abbas appointed his longtime ally and close advisor Mohammed Shtayyeh as the new Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a new government. Mohammed Shtayyeh was 61 years old at the time, including professor of economics, former minister for public works and housing, member of the Central Committee of Fatah, participant in various negotiations with the Israeli government and was director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and until his appointment as Prime Minister Reconstruction (PECDAR). He is considered moderate and a supporter of the two-state solution in the conflict with Israel. Analysts see the replacement of Rami Hamdallah by Mohammed Shtayyeh as part of Mahmoud Abba’s efforts to further politically isolate Hamas.

On April 13, 2019, Mohammed Shteyyeh presented his cabinet. 17 members of the 23-member government are new. The deputy prime minister Ziad Abu Amr, the deputy prime minister and information minister Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the foreign minister Riad al-Malki, the finance minister Shukri Bishara and the tourism minister Rula Maaya have retained their offices. No Minister of the Interior and no Minister of Religious Affairs were appointed. As long as these two positions are not filled, Mohammed Shteyyeh takes on these tasks.

In addition to six representatives from Fatah including the Prime Minister, the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), the Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida) and the Palestinian People’s Front (PPSF) are also represented in the cabinet. Other parties including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) refused government participation. Other members of the cabinet are not affiliated with any party. Most of the newly appointed ministers are academics. Many have an explicit expertise for their respective portfolio. In Mai Kaileh, for example, there is a doctor at the head of the Ministry of Health, Mohammed Shalaldeh, the new Minister of Justice, is a professor of international law, and Atef Abu Saif, the new Minister of Culture, is a writer.

Four cabinet members come from the Gaza Strip, including Atef Abu Saif, who was seriously injured in clashes with Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip in March 2019.

Hamas criticized the formation of the government, calling it a continuation of Fatah’s policy of exclusivity and exclusion. It would serve the interests and desires of Fatah at the expense of the interests of the Palestinian people and their unity and solidify the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The government would have no national and constitutional legitimacy.

7th General Congress of Fatah in Ramallah

From November 29th to. The 7th General Congress of Fatah, which had been postponed several times, met on December 4, 2016 with more than 1,300 participants from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and abroad. The delegates confirmed Mahmoud Abbas as chairman, discussed the party’s future political program and elected members of the two main political bodies, the Central Committee (the party’s highest decision-making body) and the Revolutionary Council (which acts as the internal parliament).

Among others, Marwan Barghouti, who has been in Israeli custody since April 2002, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, the general secretary and chief negotiator for the negotiations with Israel, Saeb Erekat, and Nasser al-Qidwa, nephew of the late President Yasser Arafat, were re-elected. Six members were newly elected to the body, including Education Minister Sabri Saidam and the only woman, Member of Parliament Dalal Salameh. Most of the new members support Mahmoud Abbas, which strengthens his position and allows him to make decisions on his own terms.

All supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’ rival, Mohammed Dahlan, had been excluded in advance. The Gaza-based Safa news agency reported that “en masse” supporters of Dahlan had been arrested in front of the Congress. Those arrested reported torture. Mahmoud Abbas has been accused from many quarters of becoming more and more authoritarian.

7th General Congress of Fatah in Ramallah