Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday chose Rami Hamdallah, currently the prime minister of the PA government, to be the prime minister and head of the unity government with Hamas.
Hamdallah has been seen by experts as being largely under Abbas’s thumb. However, precisely the post of foreign minister in the unity government appears to be holding back the government’s formation.
“The government is ready, but there is only one problem, and that is that Fatah and Hamas reject Riyad al-Malki as foreign minister, something Abbas is insisting on,” a PA official told AFP.
Al-Malki is the current foreign minister of the PA government, an office he has held since 2007. In January he stated that “the Arab states will never recognize a Jewish state.”
A source close to Hamas has reported that the terrorist organization wants Ziyad Abu Amer, one of two deputy premiers now serving under Hamdallah, to get the post of foreign minister.
Following the reconciliation deal signed between Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas last month, which torpedoed peace talks, the two sides have been working to form an “independent government” of technocrats ahead of elections. Reportedly the government will include 15 ministers.
“If this issue is resolved today and Abbas agrees not to appoint Malki, then the government will be announced in the next few hours,” the Hamas-linked official said.
The unity government in its inclusion of Hamas and Islamic Jihad constitutes a change in the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the group recognized internationally as representing the “Palestinian people,” but which has never rejected terrorism.
There has been friction surrounding the forming of the unity government, given that Abbas has said Hamas won’t be part of the “independent government,” even as Hamas continues to be adamant over its full control of a “unity” government.