Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

PA government dies fast

The collapse of the Hamdallah cabinet after 18 days appears to have been spurred by the refusal of Mahmoud Abbas to share or accept limits to his power, writes Ahmed Eleiba

Al-Ahram Weekly

Barely was the government headed by Rami Hamdallah sworn in by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas than the new prime minister handed in his resignation. The government had survived only 18 days, making it the shortest-lived PA government ever. In the opinion of numerous sources in Jordan, the West Bank and Cairo, it was vicious political disputes and intrigues that drove this government to its premature death.

According to a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, President Abbas wanted a puppet prime minister while he — Abbas — retained all the power. Evidence of this was to be found in the fact that Abbas overstepped his rights by handpicking all of Hamdallah’s ministers.

But it also appears that the PA president overstepped the law by choosing the deputy prime minister for the Hamdallah government. Under PA law, deputy prime ministers are elected by the cabinet, not imposed by the president, Birzeit University professor Ghassan Al-Khatib told Al-Ahram Weekly.

To make matters worse, Abbas made his appointed deputy prime minister (Mohamed Mustafa) the government spokesman, to which Hamdallah responded by appointing a spokesman of his own (Ihab Bessissou). Abbas took this as a personal affront and the collision course was set between the PA presidency and the PA premiership.

According to a leading politician in the West Bank, Abbas wanted to impose Mohamed Mustafa not only on Hamdallah but also on Washington whose opinion the PA president heeds on such matters. Mustafa was to be Abbas’s right-hand man in the cabinet, not only in the capacity of government spokesman but also possibly authorised to sign agreements pertaining to the World Bank.

Washington was not buying. Nor, according to the sources the Weekly spoke to, was the World Bank. A Palestinian minister told the Weekly that Mustafa has a “suspicious functional relationship” with the PA investment fund, which is a repository for millions — if not billions — of dollars. The minister said that Abbas knows that Mustafa is the only person who knows the keys to this fund, through which he (Mustafa) reaps $50-70,000 a month. He added that Abbas believed that his appointment of Mustafa would help him overcome serious economic problems that had triggered a mass protest movement in the West Bank against the government of Salam Fayyad. But, the minister added, “This was the wrong direction to take.”

In the assessment of a Hamas official from Gaza currently residing in Cairo, conditions in the West Bank have come to resemble those in Gaza, to the detriment of the Palestinian people and their cause.

Cairo, which had once carried considerable weight with PA leaders and which is frustrated in its efforts to broker a Palestinian reconciliation dialogue that would eventually lead to the creation of a Palestinian national consensus government, does not appear to have had a say in this matter.

The Palestinian president will have a difficult road ahead of him. An Israeli television station reported that Abbas is scheduled to hold unconditional talks with the Israelis and other parties next week. In the absence of other Palestinian leaders to offer opinions and advice, he will be alone in the field.


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