RAMALLAH, West Bank – President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of his newly appointed prime minister on Sunday, a spokesman said, leaving his Palestinian Authority in disarray at a time when he is focusing on a U.S. push to restart peace negotiations with Israel.
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had served only two weeks when he abruptly resigned last week over a conflict of authority with his deputies. Abbas initially asked him to reconsider, but ultimately accepted the resignation and asked Hamdallah to stay on as head of a caretaker government until a replacement is found, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press.
Such a caretaker government could remain in place for weeks. There was no sign of a likely candidate to succeed Hamdallah.
Abbas is likely to look for someone who has the blessing of the Western donor countries that prop up the Palestinian Authority, has experience in economic affairs and also is close to his Fatah movement.
Abbas appointed Hamdallah, a university president and political novice, earlier this month in an apparent move to consolidate power. Hamdallah replaced internationally known economist Salam Fayyad, who had clashed with Abbas.
The prime minister heads the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government in parts of the West Bank that handles day-to-day affairs of Palestinians.
While he is not involved in diplomacy, the timing of the change comes as a tricky time for Abbas. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is about to return to the region as part of his push to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Abbas won’t resume negotiations as long as Israeli settlement construction continues in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, occupied areas where the Palestinians want to establish a state. Israel has refused to halt building. Abbas’ aides fear he will be pushed to return to talks on Israel’s terms or risk being blamed for the failure of the U.S. mission.
Hamdallah took office June 6 after unexpectedly being plucked by Abbas from a career in academia to replace Fayyad, a political independent who served for six years and was respected by the West as a pragmatist.
Leading Fatah figures clamored for Fayyad to be replaced, arguing that the prime minister should be close to Fatah. Hamdallah’s appointment was seen as a bid by Abbas to consolidate power.