Spotlight: New Palestinian gov't to face major domestic, int'l challenges

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-14 18:20:10|Editor: Yamei
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RAMALLAH, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian observers believe that the new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye will have to deal with major national and international challenges.

In a separate statement to Xinhua, observers said the crisis with Israel and the U.S. administration, the financial deficit facing the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as the ongoing internal division, represent a "minefield in the path of the new government."

Ishtaye and his cabinet members were sworn in on Saturday before President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Ishtaye will serve as the minister of interior and minister of Waqf, or religious affairs, until two new ministers for the portfolios are named.

The prime minister and his cabinet's members separately took the oath, all vowing to respect the law and the Palestinian constitutional system.

The new government consists of 24 ministers from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), mainly Abbas' Fatah Party, the Palestinian People's Party, the FIDA party, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, in addition to independent figures.

Both Islamic Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad are excluded from the new government.

Hamas has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it violently seized control of the coastal enclave from Abbas' security forces in 2007.

Ishtaye's government will be the 18th Palestinian government in the history of the PA which was formed in accordance to Oslo peace accords signed between the Palestinians and Israel in 1993.

Commenting after the formation of his government, Ishtaye said the government will serve all Palestinians, stressing that its program meets the priorities of various components of Palestinian society.

"The government adopts the program of the president and the program of the PLO," official WAFA news agency quoted Ishtaye as saying.

Ishtaye, 61, has previously served as minister of public works and housing in the PA. He is an academic, economist and a former member in the Palestinian peace negotiations team with Israel.

On March 10, Abbas nominated Ishtaye to form a new Palestinian government to replace the national consensus government, which was formed in mid-2014 and agreed upon by the PLO factions and Hamas movement.

Differences between Fatah and Hamas prevented the national consensus government from having full control over Gaza despite the signing of a reconciliation agreement in October 2017.

Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, after weeks of fighting with Abbas' security forces.

Ahmed Rafiq Awad, Ramallah-based political observer, said the government comes under extremely difficult circumstances and major challenges.

"There is a financial embargo on the PA, a deteriorating relationship with Israel, a breakdown in Palestinian-American relations and tension between the PA and Hamas rulers of Gaza," he told Xinhua.

Awad added that the government needs great efforts, planning and hard work to overcome the challenges, adding that Fatah domination in the government gives it special privileges.

The expert added that the new government represents the majority of Fatah supporters, "therefore it will not receive strong opposition in the Palestinian street."

Hamas criticized the formation of the new government, stressing it will further consolidate the internal division.

"The formation of the government is a continuation of the policy of exclusion practiced by Fatah movement...this strengthens the division at the expense of the interests and unity of the Palestinian people," Hamas said in a statement after the government was sworn in.

"The new government came in difficult and complicated circumstances," Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told Xinhua.

Khatib said that the government's opportunity to fulfill its tasks seems impossible, as its task at the internal level to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, end the division between Hamas and Fatah and prepare for elections is difficult, because the two cases are complementary to each other.

"The government should make greater efforts in the file of domestic services and economic conditions such as health and education. This could help bridge the gap that has recently widened considerably between the PA and the public in the Palestinian street," Khatib noted.

He stressed that the main task of the new government is to empower the Palestinian society by improving services and strengthening the cohesion between the leadership and the public to face the pressures expected to increase from Israel, "especially the settlement expansion, human rights violations and economic sanctions."

In addition to political challenges at the internal and international levels, the new government will find itself facing a tight financial situation, which led the PA to adopt an emergency budget as it has been unable to pay full salaries to its employees.

The PA announced on Feb. 27 that it returned money of the tax revenues to the Israeli side after the latter deducted 41.8 million Israeli shekels (11.7 million U.S dollars).

Israel had decided in February to deduct the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, saying that the money which was deducted was paid to families of Palestinians who carried out "terrorist acts" against Israel.

The PA faces the risk of increasing its budget deficit to 700 million dollars, amid limited resources and revenues, posing a major challenge to its ability to meet its obligations.