Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said on Monday his government is on its way out.
As Haaretz reported at the weekend, senior Fatah officials have begun to discuss the establishment of a new government in the next two weeks in which Hamdallah is not expected to serve as prime minister.
The efforts to form a new government are seen as a step toward finding a successor to 83-year-old Abbas, given his uncertain health. Since a new prime minister would likely become the effective new president, the intention is to name someone from Fatah who represents the movement’s middle generation.
The contacts underway do not include Hamas or Islamic Jihad but rather small parties, so it is likely the new government will be under the full control of Abbas and his Fatah movement.
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Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said one of the central aims of the next government will be to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He added that his organization will “not chase after” other parties that don’t wish to join the government. Ahmad is known to be close to Abbas, particularly when it comes to his contacts with other Palestinian organizations.
Senior Palestinian officials said Abbas has asked the Fatah Central Committee to contact members of other political parties, such as the Democratic Alliance and the Palestinian National Initiative to see if they would join a new government.
Among those thought to be frontrunners for the job of prime minister are veteran Fatah Central Committee members Mohammed Shtayyeh, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh and PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. Another figure believed to be a strong candidate is Mohammed Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, who is seen as being close to Abbas.
Ahmad said the names thus far mooted as prospective successors to Hamdallah are not necessarily the ones under consideration.
He added that the Palestinian government has reached the end of its road and that meetings on the formation of a new cabinet are ongoing, both within Fatah and other parties.
There has been talk for months in Ramallah about changing the government but these efforts were delayed by internal differences in Fatah, regional developments and a desire to exhaust reconciliation efforts with Hamas.
There has long been antipathy between Hamas, which opposes peace talks with Israel, and Fatah. The two rivals have tried and failed to end divisions since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, driving out Fatah from the Strip.
Senior Fatah officials said the timing is right now for a new government, since it is clear that there is no progress in the reconciliation efforts and Israel is busy preparing for the April 9 election.
Talks about a new Palestinian government are taking place ahead of a planned February 13 meeting in Moscow of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Russia has hosted several rounds of talks aimed at forging reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Hamdallah’s government, named by Abbas in 2013, is seen as a cabinet of technocrats. Hamdallah himself is seen as someone who does Abbas’s bidding, as his deputies are also close to the president. Hamdallah’s predecessor, Salam Fayyad, was more of an independent who largely handled economic affairs, and who angered Abbas and Fatah.