Palestinian Authority Crisis

Abbas Aides to Meet With Palestinian PM Following Sudden Resignation

Rami Hamdallah will have to decide where he is headed, either retracting his resignation or confirming it, leaving after less than three weeks in office.

Palestinian Authority officials spent most of Thursday night waiting for the results of negotiations between new Palestinian Prime Minister Prof. Rami Hamdallah and a delegation on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas. The two sides met in an effort to resolve the crisis what began when Hamdallah publicly announced his resignation on Thursday evening.

Palestinian sources reported Hamdallah and Abbas will meet again in order to sort out the dispute between the prime minister and his two deputies, Mohammed Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amru, who also serve as senior advisors to President Abbas.

At this meeting, which will include the two deputies, Hamdallah will have to decide where he is headed, either retracting his resignation or confirming it, leaving after less than a month in office.

Palestinian sources reported that Hamdallah left his office on Thursday afternoon and drove his private vehicle straight to his native village of Anbata, near Tul Karm. Neither he nor his office delivered any announcement or gave any details.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA completely ignored the announcement of his resignation and relayed no further information on the subject. The implication is that as far as Abu Mazen is concerned, the last word has not been spoken yet on this issue, even though Al Hamdallah announced his resignation on his Twitter account. His account only had one other tweet from the day he assumed office.

Sources within Abbas' bureau told Haaretz that the president was furious that  Hamdallah had resigned so suddenly, announcing it publicly before informing him: “There is a feeling here that Abu Mazen is very angry with this move but has not yet decided whether to accept the resignation, once again embarking on choosing from a mix of possible names and all the speculations about the next prime minister, or whether to sort out the issues with the prime minister and his deputies."

Al Hamdallah's announcement came as a total surprise in Ramallah and the West Bank. The resignation is perhaps due to disputes between Al Hamdallah and senior members of his cabinet, mainly with his two deputies Mustafa and Abu Amru. The disputes apparently involved interference with Hamdallah's authority and the scope of his activities.

People who had been with Hamdallah over the last few days noted that he had not shown any signs indicating his intention to resign.

On the contrary, “he sounded ambitious and talked of the need to strengthen the Authority economically, and of his efforts to advance several internal initiatives”, one of these sources told Haaretz. Yesterday, Al Hamdallah met with the European Union's foreign minister, discussing the general state of the Authority.

A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that “Hamdallah accepted his position with good intentions, but everyone knew that his background was academic, and he had little political experience." 

Over the last few days talks were held in an effort to improve his standing in the international arena. This was also discussed in yesterday’s meetings. According to a senior Fatah official, officials involved in the political melee in Ramallah expected a confrontation between him and his deputies, particularly with Mustafa.

According to the same source, ever since the resignation of former Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad, Mustafa acted as if he were the next prime minister. “He is very close to the President and accompanied him to several very important meetings, but Abu Mazen, in an astute move, decided to nominate a less prominent personality such as Al Hamdallah, and the dominant Mustafa became his deputy. In practice, he continued to act as Prime Minister, and this quickly led to the clash."

Hamdallah only managed to convene two cabinet meetings, as well as visiting the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a move seen as a precedent. He is 54-years-old and well known among Palestinian intellectuals. He is considered an independent, and does not belonging to the Fatah movement. He has no political backing, and does not enjoy Western support as did his predecessor Fayyad.

Apparently there was no great feeling of shock or surprise following reports of  Hamdallah's resignation. Rather, there was the usual apathy that prevails these days in a Palestinian society that rejects everything connected with rulers and the establishment, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. People are fed up with the split between Hamas and Fatah and are worried about the future due to severe economic hardship and a cloudy political horizon.

On Friday and Saturday, Palestinians may have some joy if the young Gazan Mohammed Asaf wins in the finals of Arab Idol, a program based on The Voice which is produced by the Saudi network MBC. Asaf has united many and has a good chance of bringing home the victory.