Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahoud Abbas swore in what he called a new PA “unity government” today (Monday) at 1:00 p.m. local time in a televised ceremony in Ramallah. He apparently wasn’t confident enough to dare to do it in Gaza, and with very good reason.
“Today, after announcing the government of national unity we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause,” Abbas said. “This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back.”
Initially, his new “unity” partners from the Hamas terrorist organization had declared they were backing out of the deal. But a few minutes later, Hamas official Salah Al-Bardaweel announced “the dispute between Hamas and Fatah has been resolved.”
Ministers who allegedly are politically unaffiliated took the oath of office at the inauguration, where Abbas vowed commitments and agreements made by previous PLO and PA administrations would be upheld. It is believed that he was referring to interim deals that were made with Israel.
There are a total of 17 new ministers, including five from Gaza. It is not clear how the Gaza-based ministers will join any legislative meetings, since it is unlikely they will be able to travel out of the region — nor are the other 12 likely to travel often to Gaza.
Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization, immediately disavowed the ceremony as a “unilateral” step and stated the terrorist group would “not recognize this announcement. Within the hour, he reversed himself, telling the AFP news agency, “We hail the national consensus government which represents all the Palestinian people.” He added the new government would enable the PA to “face the Israeli occupation.”
What a surprise.
Welcome to the Palestinian Authority unity government deal, the “Cha-Cha’ of the Middle East.
After a dozen or so leading-up announcements of how the PA unity government was “about to be completed,” Palestine Liberation Organization chief – and Fatah faction leader – Mahmoud Abbas apparently simply finally lost his patience and just set the wedding date.
Abbas heads what remains of the gutted Palestinian Authority from its Judea and Samaria capital in Ramallah, as well as the PA’s leading Fatah faction, and its umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In giving international media the heads-up that he would inaugurate the unity government one way or the other, he told reporters that Israel had already warned him it would shun such a government and that he would go ahead with the plan anyway.
Hamas, meanwhile, was threatening to renege on its commitment to the deal even after the swearing-in ceremony was being carried live on Hamas ‘al-Aqsa’ television.
This time the excuse was the intent by Abbas to dissolve the PA Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, which Hamas called a “stab in the back” to terrorist prisoners. That wrinkle got worked out with the disputed Prisoners’ Ministry being given to Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya had already told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, “We made concessions on all stages … but some sides misunderstood our lenience and flexibility.” Without that ministry, he said, Hamas would definitely not join the unity government.
It would have been the umpteenth time that Hamas has backed out of a reconciliation deal at the ninth hour since it seized control of Gaza in 2007. Nothing new.
Abbas himself had no plans to turn his back on the bloodthirsty murderers who stole Israeli lives, and who he generously supports with monthly salaries from government coffers. Instead he was planning to form a prisoners’ affairs administration under the PLO.
Officially listed as a terrorist organization in the United States as well as in Israel, this new government with Hamas gives America considerable pause: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Abbas in a phone call over the weekend that it is not being taken lightly by the American government.
According to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, Abbas assured Kerry on Sunday the new “unity government” would be “committed to non-violence and recognize Israel.” Kerry’s reply was that the U.S. would “judge the body by its composition, policies and actions.”
About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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