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Palestine PM Heads New National Unity Government
May 31, 2014

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas asked prime minister Rami Hamdallah to head a new national unity government which will bring together the feuding Hamas and Fatah parties. The announcement satisfies a five-week deadline following the groups’ reconciliation pact on April 23, but the two sides have yet to come forward with a list of ministers drawn from independent technocrats, suggesting that disagreements persist. Disputes remain primarily over who should be foreign minister

Earlier, Israel suspended US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in April after Mahmoud Abbas agreed the unity pact between his Fatah party and the Islamist Hamas, which is viewed by Israel as a terrorist group.

Israel has threatened Mahmoud Abbas’s aid-dependent administration with financial sanctions if he pursues the deal. Western-backed Fatah rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank while militant Hamas, which has refused to recognise Israel, holds sway in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.

Fatah and Hamas developed separate governments while national institutions, including parliament, mostly lapsed after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after a sweeping win in legislative elections.

A unity government is to prepare for general elections in 2015. Mahmoud Abbas has said it will follow his pragmatic political programme, which has the backing of the US and Europe.

Mahmoud Abbas has been keen to assure Western donor countries that he will remain the key Palestinian decision-maker and that security coordination between his forces and Israel will continue. 

Both Palestinian parties see benefits to a unity pact. Limping under a strict blockade by neighbours Israel and Egypt, the Hamas government in Gaza has struggled to prop up the economy. Mahmoud Abbas, shifting his strategy after the peace talks collapsed last month, is seeking to shore up his domestic legitimacy since his mandate expired in 2009.

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