TEL AVIV – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the appointment of Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on Sunday, in a move that deepened the rift between the ruling Fatah faction and its rival group, the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas.
Hamas made it clear that it would not recognize the new government formed by Shtayyeh, a longtime ally of Abbas and Fatah Central Committee member.
Abbas asked Shtayyeh to form a government that would “enhance the culture of peace and support the families of prisoners and martyrs,” the Jerusalem Post reported, in a reference to the PA’s so-called “pay-for-slay” scheme. “Martyrs” most often refers to terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis, while “prisoners” usually means convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli jails.
The news of Shtayyeh’s announcement comes as the PA announced that it would cut civil servants’ salaries by around 40% in the wake of Israel’s decision to slash aid to the PA over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families. Some $138 million in tax transfers was withheld this month.
“Israel is choking the economy and causing a financial crisis for the Palestinian Authority,” Abbas said.
Abbas has in the past vowed that every spare penny will go to terrorists and their families.
Abbas, in his letter of appointment, stated that the new government’s main agenda should be to “support the decisions of the Palestinian leadership, which include restoring national unity and bringing Gaza back to the bosom of national legitimacy.”
However, Hamas on Sunday said Shtayyeh’s appointment demonstrates “Abbas’s unilateralism and monopoly of power.”
“Hamas stresses that it does not recognize this separatist government because it was formed without national consensus,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.
Senior Hamas official Yahya Moussa slammed the appointment of Shtayyeh as a “disgrace for the people and Palestinian history.”
Another Hamas spokesperson, Abdel Latif al-Qanou, said that his appointment highlights the “tyranny and dictatorship of the Palestinian Authority.”
Shtayyeh’s predecessor, Rami Hamdallah, announced his resignation earlier this year after years of failed reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, the most recent of which were scuttled a year ago after Hamdallah’s motorcade was targeted by a roadside bomb in Gaza.
Abbas also called on Shtayyeh to provide “material and moral support to the victims of the occupation and their families, including martyrs, prisoners and the wounded.”
The new PA government, Abbas said, should “continue to defend Jerusalem, with its Islamic and Christian holy sites, in the face of the policies of the occupation that are aimed at changing the city’s national identity and religious and historic status.”
It should also “continue building state institutions, boost the economy, empower women and youths, enhance the culture of peace and protect public freedoms, first and foremost the freedom of expression,” Abbas said, as well as advance the cause for the so-called right-of-return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel.