No space for Hamas in new Palestinian unity government?

No space for Hamas in new Palestinian unity government?
Analysis: Hamas will likely be excluded from a new administration in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to recent diplomatic remarks.
4 min read
23 June, 2015
There have been many failed attempts at Hamas-Fatah reconcilliation in recent years [AFP]
There are increasing signs that a new "unity government" in the occupied Palestinian territories will not involve Hamas, the Islamic political party that governs the Gaza Strip.

The new administration is forming after Rami Hamdallah's cabinet resigned. It had been formed under the al-Shati unity agreement in 2014.

During talks in Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas reportedly told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that a new government would only include politicians who complied with a set of prerequisites.

"[Abbas] told me this government of national unity could only include women and men who recognise Israel, renounce violence and who are in agreement with the principles of the Quartet," Fabius said at a press conference in Jerusalem.

Accepting that these conditions ruled out Hamas, Fabius added "and that suits us perfectly".
     "[Abbas] told me this government of national unity could only include women and men who recognise Israel.
- Laurent Fabius

The executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation is reportedly discussing a new cabinet, following Fatah's sudden dissolution of the previous unity government. Hamas said they were not informed the administration would be disbanded.

"This time Hamas will not give blanket approval," to a new government without the movement, said Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas figure.

The extent of Hamas' involvement will come after an assessment of the situation once the new cabinet is formed, he said.

The al-Shati agreement, under which the previous government was formed, was also criticised for not adequately including Hamas.

Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, described what was billed as a "national reconciliation government" as "a tool in the hands of Mahmoud Abbas".

Youssef, formerly an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, emphasised the need for elections in Palestine, which have not taken place since the 2006 poll led to a Hamas victory and a subsequent international aid boycott.

"We are trying to rebuild Gaza," said Youssef.

"When we signed the [al-Shati] agreement in April 2014, we took responsibility," he said.

The issue of financial aid is a crucial motivation for reconciliation, as many Western donors, such as France, view Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Funds to rebuild Gaza must therefore be processed through a Fatah-backed government, say donor countries.

This has caused difficulties for Western aid to reach the Strip, as the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has little influence on the ground in Gaza.

Although Youssef is "still optimistic" for chances of Palestinian unity, he said that it would depend on Mahmoud Abbas and to what extent he would consult with Hamas, "and what level of commitment will he give to the new government".

Abbas' move to dissolve the government came amid reports from Hamas sources that the movement is in secret talks for shoring up a long-term truce in Israel, with Fatah consequently accusing Hamas of attempting to "build its own state" in collaboration with Israel.

"Hamas aims, through these talks, to dedicate its rule to the Gaza Strip, protect its leaders and stick to the instructions of its regional donors, even if that is at the expense of the Palestinian cause, national unity and suffering of Gazans," Fatah spokesperson Ahmad Assaf said on Saturday.

Mahmoud Abbas has also accused Hamas of trying to create an "Islamic Emirate" in Gaza.
     All these accusations [about building a separate state] are false
- Ahmed Youssef

"All these accusations [about building a separate state] are false," Youssef told al-Araby.

An analyst on Palestinian affairs in Gaza told al-Araby al-Jadeed that these "indirect negotiations" between Hamas and Israel do not appear to have developed into any agreements, and that there is probably no link between the dissolution of the Palestinian unity government and the truce talks, which have reportedly been ongoing for months.

Youssef has been described as being representative of Hamas' "pragmatist" wing. He has previously cautiously supported indirect talks between Israel and a functional unity government.

However, any negotiations between the PA and Israel is challenged not only by some members of the Hamas military wing who remain loyal to an Iranian axis, but also Salafi and other armed groups who continue to intermittently shoot rockets at Israel.