The Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government of Hamas and Fatah was said to be on the brink of resigning Wednesday in a deepening rift with Gaza as its de facto rulers Hamas hold separate, indirect talks with Israel.
A Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official said the government of technocrats formed last year to replace rival administrations in Gaza and Judea-Samaria would be dissolved sometime on Wednesday.
He said it would likely be replaced with a government of politicians.
Those words were given concrete action on Wednesday afternoon when unity government prime minister Rami Hamdallah tendered his resignation to Abbas, according to Al Arabiya.
Officials have said the move had been under discussion for several months because of the cabinet’s inability to operate in the Hamas-dominated coastal enclave of Gaza.
But Hamas rejected any unilateral dissolution of the unity government.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as telling members of his Fatah movement on Monday that the dissolution would go ahead within 24 hours.
“It will be sometime today,” the PLO official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The government will continue to function until we have a new one…I think what’s coming now is the formation of a government with politicians, not a government of technocrats.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, however, said the Islamist movement had not been consulted and that it opposed any unilateral dissolution of the government.
“Hamas rejects any one-sided change in the government without the agreement of all parties,” Zuhri told AFP.
“No one told us anything about any decision to change and no one consulted with us about any change in the unity government. Fatah acted on its own in all regards.”
Senior Hamas official Ziad al-Zaza, however, struck a more conciliatory note, calling on Abbas “to form a unity government with all national and Islamic factions to face Israeli occupation.”
Abbas reaction to Hamas talks
The move comes at an important time, with Hamas sources saying it is holding separate, indirect talks with Israel on ways to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending the terror group’s latest war against Israel.
It was not clear whether Abbas’s announcement was linked to the talks, but the PLO official said he believed that it played a role in the decision.
“If you end up having a different kind of status for Gaza, then basically the idea of a Palestinian state completely disappears,” the official said.
Another high-ranking Hamas official said he believed Abbas decided to act after receiving word of the indirect contacts.
“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,” Bassem Naim told AFP.
“He felt there was a possibility that a solution be found without the (Palestinian) Authority being involved.”
The indirect talks are said to have gone through a number of Arab and European channels.
A Hamas source said senior members of the Islamist movement had met in Doha over the weekend for talks with the Qataris, with discussions about an agreement of five to ten years.
The source said they focused on key issues for Hamas such as ending Israel’s “blockade,” which has been allowing goods in on a daily basis, and the establishment of a sea passage between Gaza and the outside world, which Israel warns would pave the way for massive weapons smuggling.
He did not say whether other Palestinian Arab factions were involved in the talks, such as Abbas’s Fatah movement, which was heavily involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks that ended the 2014 conflict.
An Abbas spokesman had on Tuesday said a truce that ended the suffering in Gaza would be welcomed, but added that it “must not have as its price a move away from the Palestinian and national consensus.”
The PA unity agreement signed last April, which torpedoed PA peace talks with Israel, sought to end seven years of bad blood between Fatah and Hamas but was dysfunctional from the start.