Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swears in new government

Abbas accepts oath from 22 ministers in new cabinet led by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sworn in a new government led by a long-time ally from his Fatah party.

Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, occupied West Bank, accepted the oath of office on Saturday from the new cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

His appointment is opposed by Hamas, the Palestinian movement that governs the besieged Gaza Strip.

The government was formed after former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah resigned in January. His resignation came following the failure of reconciliation talks between Fatah party and Hamas.

The new government officially marks the end of the stalled reconciliation efforts between the two groups.

The government comprises solely Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions, primarily Fatah, and excludes Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group.

Radical leftist secular factions of the PLO, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have boycotted the new government, arguing that it will increase division among Palestinians.

Five ministers from the last government have retained their positions, including Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, Finance Minister Shukri Bishara, Information Minister Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Tourism Minister Rola Maayaa and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr.

The other 17 ministers did not sit in the last government.

Nobody was entrusted with the posts of interior minister or religious affairs minister, which Shtayyeh will hold until they are filled.

As in the previous government, only three of the ministers are female.

Amal Hamad is sworn in as the minister of women's affairs [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
Amal Hamad is sworn in as the minister of women’s affairs [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, said that the new government has a number of pressing issues to resolve, including a dire economic situation.

“The US aid has been cut off; Israel has withheld part of the taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority,” she said.

“They will also have to deal with the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, 400 of whom are on hunger strike due to the worsening living conditions.”

She said the prisoners’ problem was linked to the financial crisis as Israel said part of the taxes it withheld went to the families of the inmates.

Legislative elections

A March 10 letter written by Abbas designating Shtayyeh to form the government said its aims would include holding legislative elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.

Abbas made no reference to presidential elections, which Hamas has been calling for.

A public opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in March found that 72 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza want simultaneous presidential and legislative elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza.

Abbas, 83, has served as president since 2005. A president’s term is supposed to last four years.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies