Palestinian political rivals form unity government
This week marked the inauguration of a new unified Palestinian government covering both Gaza and the West Bank. Its the first time there’s been a single ruling body over both Palestinian enclaves since Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Disagreement over staffing government posts nearly derailed the inauguration, and tensions – both external and internal – continue. On Thursday, Israel announced thousands more settlement homes. And clashes broke out at a Gaza bank, when municipal workers previously employed by Hamas did not receive their pay under the new government while their Palestinian authority counterparts did. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.
The new Palestinian government faces a number of challenges, as it’s the first national consensus government following a long-standing rivalry between the two major parties, Hamas and Fatah. A new cabinet of 17 ministers, none of them belonging to either party, was sworn in this week, before President Mahmoud Abbbas in Ramallah. The cabinet is led by current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Alhamdallah.
Palestinians in Gaza hope the new government will be able to ease economic problems largely caused by the Israeli blockade that’s gripped the territory since 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
Sobhi Dawood is a taxi driver in Gaza City, where fuel prices have soared after Egypt destroyed hundreds of underground tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border. The tunnels were used to funnel goods to the region.
“We hope that the new government will help all the people, irrespectively, live in dignity,” said Dawood.
The United States and the European Union hope the new government will stick to signed peace agreements with Israel, renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Israel has objected to the Palestinian cabinet, viewing it as cabinet of what Israel calls the ‘terrorist’ Hamas group.
Israel has threatened to withhold tax funds due to the region, and on Thursday approved another 3300 settlement homes.
“Following the formation of this government, Israel will have no right to continue closing border crossings,” said Gaza-based political analyst, Akram Attalah. “The international community should hold Israel accountable if this violation of the internationally-recognized Oslo peace accords continues. Only then will people’s lives be improved.”
The Western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, HAS warned Israel against taking punitive actions against the newly-born government.
Photo credit: Kelly Van Pelt via Flickr user codepinkalert. Used under Creative Commons license.