from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

The Palestinian PM Resigns: 2003 or 2013?

June 20, 2013

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The Palestinian prime minister, not long in office, has resigned. Why? A power struggle between him and the president, everyone says.

The date is September, 2003.

Or, the date is today. What has changed is that the guy resigning in 2003 was Mahmoud Abbas, after losing a struggle with Yasser Arafat. Today, Abbas is the president whose refusal to share power has caused Rami Hamdallah, in office as prime minister for only 18 days, to walk away.

Of course, it may be patched up: Abbas as of now has not accepted the resignation and perhaps the two men or intermediaries can negotiate a deal. But the episode is an interesting one, and not solely because Abbas has changed from being the guy forced to resign into the guy forcing the resignation by hoarding power.

For the United States, it ought to mean holding off for the moment on cash transfers to the Palestinian Authority: we don’t know whom the PM is going to be, so how can we be sure it will be someone we wish to trust with our foreign aid funds? It also suggests that the difficulties facing Secretary of State Kerry’s peace efforts are mounting rather than diminishing: additional disarray in Palestinian internal politics can only make compromise harder for Palestinian officials. Kerry is scheduled to be back in Jerusalem soon, as part of his current travels. The Palestinian political crisis provides a good reason to delay that visit.

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