Rami Hamdallah to head Palestinian consensus government
RAMALLAH - Palestinian premier Rami Hamdallah is to head the consensus government to be formed under a deal with Hamas to end seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza, an official said Thursday.
"The government is nearly ready, and Rami Hamdallah will be prime minister," the official close to the reconciliation negotiations said on condition of anonymity.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas "informed Mr Hamdallah yesterday (Wednesday) that he would head the government," the official said.
Hamdallah is the prime minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Hamas has a rival prime minister in Gaza -- Ismail Haniya.
Hamas "had no objection" to the decision, said Bassem Naim, an adviser to Haniya.
A senior Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmed, is due in Gaza on Sunday to "finalise consultations" on the government, Naim said.
On April 23, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, dominated by Abbas's Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation deal aimed at forging a unified administration.
Under the deal, the two sides were to form an "independent government" of technocrats, headed by Abbas, paving the way for long-delayed elections.
Hamas, which does not recognise Israel, has ruled Gaza since it expelled Fatah after a week of deadly clashes in 2007.
The April reconciliation agreement incensed Israel, putting the final nail in the coffin of faltering US-led peace talks.
The new government will still need the approval of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament, which was elected in 2006 before the deadly fighting of the following year, Haniya said last week.
Both the European Union and the United States have said repeatedly that they will have no dealings with any government that involves Hamas until the Islamist group renounces violence and recognises Israel and past peace agreements.