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31 January 2019

New Palestinian government might have teeth

By: Daoud Kuttab
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The decision by the powerful Fateh Central Committee to replace Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah’s government with a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) government, headed by a member of the central committee, is likely to shake up Palestinian politics.

Until now, the national accord, largely technocratic government was supposed to usher in reconciliation. With the failure of reconciliation, the Fateh leadership has decided to reassert its right to run the government until legislative and/or presidential elections can take place.

While on the surface the Hamdallah government was seen as independent of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it was, in fact, much more beholden to the resident of the Muqata, the Palestinian government headquarters in the city of Ramallah, than a new government chosen by the Fateh Central Committee would be. While Hamdallah initially tried to resign when he realised that then-deputy prime minister Mohammad Mustafa takes his orders directly from Abbas, he later returned to the prime ministry, and has been since following almost every single request, order, from Abbas.

Although Abbas is the head of Fateh, the discussions within the Fateh Central Committee are much more intense than those in any other Palestinian public setting, including the PLO executive committee.

Governments should be chosen and given a vote of confidence by people and their representatives. However, until elections take place, it is possible that a government nominated by the Fateh Central Committee, which is elected by the Fateh cadres, might be more accountable to at least a certain segment of the Palestinian people than the Hamdallah technocratic government that was totally subservient to Abbas, without actually leaving any fingerprints the way former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, for example, had done.

The idea that the new government will be made up of PLO factions appears to be facing some initial opposition, although the same factions continue to be members of the PLO executive committee. Sure, everyone wants the government to include all Palestinian factions, including those among Gaza’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but until the reconciliation issue is resolved, it makes little sense to continue with a Hamdallah government that has no smell or taste to it.

The left-wing Palestinian factions that united in a single coalition only a month ago, responded individually, which makes little sense. It would make much more sense if the Palestinian National Democratic Assembly enters into serious negotiations on the formation of the new government with the idea that it can have much more influence by being inside the government than being outside. Naturally, these factions do not have a huge following and, therefore, it would be important for them not to exaggerate in their demands. Politics is the art of the possible, and if the leaders of these factions are serious about having some influence, it would be appropriate and, in fact, necessary for them to be part of the government and use this platform to continue to call for unity and reconciliation.

Palestine is going through some difficult times which are not going to be resolved by the creation of a new government. Elections are certainly the best and most appropriate avenue to return the right to the people of Palestine instead of limiting it to the resident of the Muqata, or even the Fateh Central Committee and the small left-wing factions. Until elections do take place, it is important that a new government with new blood is formed and is able to begin an electoral process that can include Palestinians of all backgrounds and locations.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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