Obama visit: Abbas brings Palestinian cause, but not support, to Washington
Not only are Fatah and Hamas deadlocked in a power struggle. Abbas’s own Fatah bloc has rejected his new government.
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Overlooked, rank-and-file rebelsSkip to next paragraph
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Abbas's fellow Fatah members were affronted by his announcement last week of a new cabinet headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, infuriated that they were not consulted in picking his inner circle.
Azzam el-Ahmad, the leader of the Fatah bloc in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), says Abbas totally overlooked the rank-and-file representatives, elected in the January 2006 elections.
"The Fatah bloc should be the backbone of the government," says Mr. Ahmad. "We're a hard-working unit that should not have been ignored during consultations on the formation of the government."
He acknowledges that there was, however, mounting pressure on Abbas to improve his government's standing over the last one, dubbed a "caretaker government" because it was meant to be a temporary solution to the political crisis. Mr. Fayyad had submitted his resignation in March.
"The government suffered from lack of professionals who could carry serious political weight in the past year, especially during the war in Gaza. We needed a stronger presence, and at times the people were disappointed with the performance of some ministers," Ahmad says.
One small step for Palestinian democracy
The Fatah representatives have clearly made themselves heard in the past week with their threat to ban the government of Abbas – this despite the fact that he is chairman of Fatah. They expect a shift in attitude. "Abu Mazen will take us more seriously now, and we'll agree to go back to the government if we sort out our problems with him," says Ahmad.
Abbas still has four ministerial spots to distribute, which can serve to help patch things up. One position is slated to go to Rabeha Diab. She was offered the Ministry of Women's Affairs, but in solidarity with the rest of Fatah, she turned it down.
"We created a positive commotion. Suddenly, people see we have the power to reject. We can stand up against our leadership if we see that something is wrong, and we've become stronger because of this," Ms. Diab said in an interview in the PLC headquarters here.
In other words, that's one small leap for Palestinian democracy. But it's also a setback for Abbas's drive to gird himself for his work in Washington, in Cairo, and ultimately, with a new Israeli government that has so far declined to make any endorsement of the two-state solution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that to start negotiations, the Palestinians must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state – something Hamas has spurned.
Abbas indicated this week that he will set similar preconditions before resuming negotiations: that Israel recognize the Palestinians' right to a state and that it freeze settlement expansion.