x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Abbas swears in caretaker cabinet

Rami Hamdallah is to remain prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, even though Mr Abbas accepted his resignation earlier this year

RAMALLAH // Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in all 24 members of his caretaker cabinet yesterday, despite confusion over his choice of premier.

Rami Hamdallah is to remain prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, even though Mr Abbas accepted his resignation earlier this year, said Ehab Bseiso, the Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman. “It was agreed between the president and Prime Minister Hamdallah that the government should continue on as is,” Mr Bseiso said.

Mr Hamdallah, formerly the president of An-Najah National University in Nablus, was appointed by Mr Abbas in June to replace Salam Fayyad as prime minister. But he surprised political observers by resigning two weeks later.

Mr Abbas accepted Mr Hamdallah’s resignation, but asked him to stay on as caretaker premier until a replacement was named.

Last month, Mr Abbas announced that he had given Mr Hamdallah five weeks to form a new government.

“By accepting to form the government five weeks ago, that means the prime minister withdrew his resignation,” Mr Bseiso explained.

The perplexing series of events highlight what critics have long called a crisis in the Palestinian leadership, which last held parliamentary elections in 2006 and is bitterly divided.

Earlier this year, the Fatah faction, which Mr Abbas heads, and its Hamas rivals, who control the Gaza Strip, agreed to hold national elections by August 14.

But renewed bickering quickly scuttled that plan, which the factions had billed as a renewed push to implement their stalled reconciliation accord of 2011.

That agreement laid out the framework for uniting Palestinians in the West Bank with Gaza, which Hamas captured from Fatah forces in 2007.

Since then, both factions, still bitterly divided, have ruled their respective areas by decree.

hnaylor@thenational.ae