RAMALLAH/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah offered his resignation Friday, the official news agency WAFA said, a move which may pave the way for a unity government agreed between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas.
The Palestine Liberation Organization is preparing for weekend crisis talks after Israel torpedoed the U.S.-sponsored peace talks in response to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, which was announced Wednesday. The deal prompted Israel to say it could not negotiate with an administration that embraced Hamas.
With the peace process that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has fought long and hard for apparently back at square one just days before an April 29 deadline for talks, both sides were considering their next move.
The PLO leadership will convene Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah to debate the peace process and its options, with Abbas due to make a key speech Sunday.
“I present my resignation, and the government is in your excellency’s hands whenever you wish,” the prime minister told Abbas.
Hamdallah, whose role is limited to domestic governance, offered his resignation last year in a dispute over his powers, but quickly retracted it.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Abbas could “have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas. He can’t have both.”
“As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas terrorists that are calling for our liquidation.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration dragged both sides back to the negotiating table last July after a three-year hiatus, called the Palestinian deal “unhelpful.”
Speaking in Seoul, Obama acknowledged the need for a “pause,” but vowed he would not give up on Kerry’s push for peace.
Kerry urged both sides to “compromise,” saying “we will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities of peace.”
The two sides have been on a collision course since March, when Israel refused to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners in line with the original deal on resuming talks.
The Palestinians retaliated by signing 15 international treaties, and Abbas – who heads the Palestinian Authority and Fatah – subsequently listed conditions for extending the talks beyond the April 29 deadline.
Abbas said he would agree to an extension if Israel froze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, freed the prisoners and began talks over the borders of a promised Palestinian state.
Israel dismissed the conditions.
At the same time, Hamas and Fatah-led PLO agreed to establish a “national consensus” government under Abbas within weeks.
The reconciliation deal infuriated Israel, whose security cabinet said Thursday that it would “not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas.”
Human Rights Watch said Friday that Israel must stop shooting Palestinian civilians in Gaza, noting that four were killed near the border fence this year, “none of whom posed a threat to the soldiers or others.”