June 23, 2013 | Policy Brief

The Exit of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the Need for “Real Political Reform”

June 23, 2013 | Policy Brief

The Exit of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the Need for “Real Political Reform”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of newly appointed prime minister Rami Hamdallah on Sunday, according to WAFA, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s news agency. Hamdallah, an academic administrator with no practical political experience, held the office of prime minister for less than a month. He may, however, stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed, according to spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

The crisis erupted on Thursday, when Hamdallah submitted his resignation. The premier reportedly chafed in his new position due to power struggles with his powerful deputy prime ministers, Mohammed Mustafa, a close advisor to Abbas on economic affairs, and Ziad Abu Amr, a former foreign minister from Gaza. Communication with Abbas was also challenging, according to Palestinian insiders.

In the days that followed, Abbas reportedly tried to talk his new prime minister out of resigning. Hamdallah, for a brief period of time, reportedly retracted his resignation. But whatever agreement he reached with Abbas was fleeting. As he wrote on his Twitter account today, “The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform.”

Hamdallah’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority echoes that of his predecessor Salam Fayyad, who quit amidst strong differences of opinion with Abbas over the importance of transparency and institution building in Palestinian governance.

In other words, Abbas’s appointment of Hamdallah backfired. Abbas wanted a weak premier who could enable him consolidate power. He tapped Hamdallah because he was a political neophyte and a Fatah party loyalist. But Hamdallah, with his parting shot on Twitter, is very clearly challenging Abbas’ governing style, if not his very authority.

The brief premiership of Hamdallah underscores the fact that the Palestinian Authority is suffering from chronic instability. This could weigh heavily on the PA’s ability to conduct diplomacy and raise funds from donor countries. Abbas will need to move quickly if he wishes to project stability.

Hamdallah’s resignation also makes it clear that, even in the post-Fayyad era, the need for improved Palestinian governance is an issue that will not go away.

Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Palestinian Politics