Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah has tendered his resignation and that of his unity government to President Mahmoud Abbas, he said on Tuesday, dealing a blow to faltering reconciliation efforts with Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers.
The government will continue to carry out its duties until a new one is formed, it said in a statement issued after a weekly cabinet meeting.
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.
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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.
There was no immediate comment from Abbas, but his Fatah faction, at a meeting he chaired two days ago, recommended that the government be replaced. A Hamas official condemned the move as an attempt to marginalize and exclude the group from Palestinian politics.
Hamdallah, a little-known academic, headed the national unity government formed in 2014 and led the West Bank-based Fatah’s reconciliation efforts with Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007.
The two groups signed a reconciliation deal two years ago which set in motion a plan for Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to resume governing in Gaza and take up control of the coastal enclave’s crossing points into Egypt and Israel.
But disputes over power-sharing and disagreements over policy toward Israel have hampered the deal’s implementation.