The Palestinian national consensus government was sworn in on Monday at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. The ceremony was made possible after obstacles the negotiations towards an agreed government faced were overcome.
During the last moments of the negotiations Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for Hamas, clarified that at the core of the disagreements were the movement’s reservations regarding the appointment of Ryiad al-Maliki as the minister of foreign affairs, as well as Fatah’s suggestion to eliminate the ministry of prisoners’ affairs. Eventually it was agreed that al-Maliki will remain as foreign affairs minister and that while the ministry of prisoners’ affairs would remain open, no minister would be appointed at its head.
On 23 April, an agreement between Hamas and the PLO paved the way for the formation of a government of national unity for the first time in seven years, ending the strife between Fatah and Hamas. The agreement was also used by Israel to freeze all negotiations with the PLO.
After 2007, the year after Hamas won the legislative elections in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, two separate Palestinian governments were established, one in the Gaza Strip and the other in Ramallah. The Ramallah government was responsible, partially, for Area A and Area B of the West Bank, while Hamas ruled Gaza strip, which remained isolated by Israel.
The new government, which will pave the way for long-overdue legislative and presidential elections, will be chaired by Rami Hamdallah, who is currently serving as prime minister in the Fatah-dominated West Bank administration.
Politically, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, made it clear that this government will adhere to previous PLO policies, as well as continue the peace process and recognise Israel. Nonetheless, Israel had informed the Palestinian president that it would cut all ties with the new government. "Israel wants to punish us for agreeing with Hamas on this government," said President Abbas.
On Saturday, Palestinian officials said Israel had blocked the passage of three Gazans who were to have been sworn in as ministers in the new government.
The Israeli public radio stated that COGAT head, Major General Yoav Mordechai, had vetoed the request, without saying why. COGAT stands for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, a unit within the Israeli military.
At the weekly cabinet meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the expected declaration of a technocratic government based on the Fatah-Hamas unity accords.
"I call on all responsible elements in the international community not to run to recognize the Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part and which rests on Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and the international community must not embrace it," Netanyahu said.
"This will not strengthen peace; it will strengthen terrorism," he added.