Palestinian Unity Governance
By Stephen Lendman
It's official. Its called "national reconciliation government." On Monday, Palestinian ministers were ceremonially sworn in.
At Ramallah presidential headquarters. Presided over by Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. A last minute disagreement was resolved. More on this below.
Others issues remain. Whether enough to disrupt unity going forward the fullness of time will tell.
Seventeen ministers took oaths of office. Five are from Gaza. Israel denied three Hamas ones West Bank entry. They were sworn in by live video feed.
Hamdallah remains prime minister and minister of interior. Former PA foreign minister Ziad Abu Amr is deputy prime minister and culture minister.
Muhammad Mustafa is deputy prime minister and national economy minister. Shukri Bishara is minister of finance and planning.
Riyad al-Maliki remains foreign affairs minister. Salim al-Saqqa is justice minister. Adnan al-Husseini is Jerusalem affairs minister.
Rula Maya is tourism and antiquities minister. Jawad Awad remains minister of health.
Khawlah Shakhshir is education and higher education minister. Mufeed al-Hasayna is public works and housing minister.
Allam Mousa is telecommunications and transportation minister. Shawqi al-Ayasa is agriculture and social affairs minister.
Hayfaa al-Agha is minister for women. Mamoun Abu Shahla is labor minister. Nayif Abu Khalaf is local governance minister.
Yousif Ideis is endowment minister. No minister of prisoners' affairs was announced. Abbas wanted the Prisoners Affairs Ministry dismantled.
He wanted it put under PLO administration. Hamas opposed doing so. It remained a major disagreement until last minute resolution.
Earlier, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said unity wouldn't be consummated without a prisoners affairs ministry.
It'll likely be replaced by committee. With no official ministerial role. Temporarily it's part of Prime Minister Al-Hamdallah's portfolio.
On Monday, Reuters said "the dispute between Hamas and Fatah has been resolved." In six months or less, presidential and parliamentary elections will follow.
Qadura Fares heads the Palestinian Prisoners Club. He spoke with senior Hamas representatives. They expressed reservations about dismantling the Prisoners Affairs Ministry. Not the process itself.
According to Fares, the decision was made because of an Israeli anti-ministry incitement campaign.
Unity government officials are technocrats. They're nominally independent. Their new platform is expected to recognize Israel, reject terror, and respect previously signed agreements.
After Monday's swearing in ceremony, Abbas said:
"Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case."
"This black page in the history has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back,” he added.
"We won't stand with our hands folded in the face of punitive (Israeli) measures, and we will use every legal and diplomatic tool at our disposal in the international community."
Hamas leader Israel Haniyeh called Palestinian unity "historic."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised "national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people."
Netanyahu didn't surprise. His comments turned truth on its head. "Abbas said yes to terror, not peace," he claimed.
"It is the direct continuation of (his) policy to refuse peace, while Israel has made courageous and painful steps for the political process and remains committed to peace."
"Abbas refused to extend the negotiating framework via the US's proposal, continues to incite against Israel, joined international agencies in a set of unilateral moves, and now has formed an alliance with the Hamas terrorist organization - which is responsible for the murder of more than a thousand innocent Israelis, and has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns."
"Hamas leaders have reiterated their commitment to terrorism and the destruction of Israel. The agreement with Hamas transfers to Abbas direct responsibility for terrorism from Gaza."
On Sunday, John Kerry spoke to Abbas. According to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki:
He "expressed concern about Hamas’s role in any such government and the importance that the new government commit to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements with it."
He said Washington will "judge any government based on its composition, policies and actions."
"President Abbas assured the secretary that the new government would be committed to these principles."
On May 29, State Department Bureau of Public Affairs spokesman Ian Kelly was asked if Washington would support Palestinian unity governance if Hamas members pledge to accept Quartet principles.
"The United States would expect any Palestinian Government and all of its members to accept and comply with the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations entered into by the PLO and the PA," he said.
According to an unnamed US official, Washington told Israel "it will not support the unity government immediately after it is sworn in."
After Monday's ceremony, Israel's security cabinet vowed to hold PA officials responsible for Gazan rocket fire.
It's virtually never preemptive. It follows Israeli air, ground and/or sea attacks. It's legitimate self-defense. Israel calls it terrorism.
Its security cabinet members won't negotiate with Palestine's new government. Ultranationalist/defrocked/reinstated Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said if Israel wants to retaliate, it should act, not talk.
Netanyahu said Kerry committed not to recognize Palestinian unity governance straightaway. Israeli officials believe most Western countries will do so within hours or days.
"Recognize the new Palestinian government," urged Haaretz editors. Netanyahu vowed no "contact with the new Palestinian Authority except for necessary security coordination," they said.
National reconciliation government followed heavy Arab pressure. Most Palestinians support it.
So do most Western leaders. Israel "invested great effort in foiling diplomatic negotiations," said Haaretz editors.
"(N)ow it's citing Palestinian reconciliation as a decisive reason for freezing (peace) talks."
Its "refusal to recognize this government is liable to portray it once again as the party refusing to give the diplomatic channel a chance."
No nation may dictate the composition of others. Palestine's new government must serve the needs of its people.
It must provide for their health, education and welfare. It must maintain law and order. It must improve economic conditions.
"Israel should welcome the fact that it is not required to operate or fund those services," said Haaretz editors.
"If Israel had recognized the Palestinian government that was elected in 2006, or had cooperated with the Palestinian unity government that was established afterward, we would have been spared numerous casualties on both sides," they added.
"Israel cannot repeat the same mistake. So long as the new Palestinian government continues to stick to the agreements it signed with Israel and seeks to continue cooperating with Israel, Netanyahu may not cut off ties with it or threaten to boycott it."
"He would be better off investing his efforts in renewing the diplomatic process with the partner that still exists."
Israel deplores peace and stability. So does Washington. Rogue states operate this way. They risk regional conflicts. Perhaps global war.
Extremist policies head inexorably toward igniting it. Fascist leadership risks what responsible governance wouldn't dare.
Enemies are invented when none exist. Advancing imperial priorities matters most. Doing so involves eliminating all rivals.
War on humanity follows. Doing so risks destroying it altogether. Lunatics infest Washington and Israel.
They risk the unthinkable. They do it mindlessly. They do it recklessly.
Palestinian unity is a chance for a new direction. Disrupting it risks the worst of all possible outcomes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.
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