Palestinian 'unity' government to be formed Monday, says Abbas

A Palestinian unity government backed by rival factions Hamas and Fatah will be announced Monday, says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. An Israeli official called it a 'great leap backward.'

By , Associated Press

The formation of a Palestinian unity government backed by rival factions Hamas and Fatah will be announced Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, adding that Israel already warned him it would shun the new alliance.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas in 2007, is considered a terror group by Israel and the West.

The unity government is to consist of technocrats backed by both sides and will prepare for general elections in 2015. Establishing such a government would be the most significant step in seven years toward ending the crippling Palestinian political split.

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In recent days, there were last-minute disagreements over the Cabinet lineup, but Abbas suggested Saturday that the issues were resolved.

"The announcement of the government will be on Monday," he said during a meeting with several dozen pro-Palestinian activists from France. "The Israelis informed us today that they are going to boycott us immediately after we form the government."

Abbas said that "we are going to react to any Israeli action." He did not elaborate.

A senior Israeli government official said the formation of a unity government "is a great leap backward," but declined to say whether Israel would take punitive action. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with journalists.

Why is Abbas moving forward with the unity government in the face of Israel's objections? The Christian Science Monitor reported:

Abbas, elected eight years ago, has consistently marketed himself as a committed peacemaker who will show Palestinians it is better to negotiate than resort to violence. But two rounds of negotiations later, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank has grown by more than 60,000 or 22 percent, and talks with Israel have failed to deliver a single meaningful benefit to Abbas's constituency. 

His legitimacy is wearing dangerously thin, and he lacks the leverage to convince Palestinians to make the sacrifices necessary for lasting peace. Hamas could sabotage any deal he reaches with Israel by sending rockets into Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv.

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Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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