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US congratulates new anti-Hamas Palestinian government

Jason Greenblatt meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in May 2017 [AFP/Getty Images]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2019

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Jason Greenblatt, appointed as special representative for international negotiations by President Trump, tweeted his congratulations to the new Palestinian cabinet formed by Prime Minister Shtayyeh and President Abbas.

The US congratulated the new Palestinian government Sunday, a day after incoming prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced his new cabinet alongside president Mahmoud Abbas - leaving out the Islamist movement Hamas.

"Congratulations to the new Palestinian Authority Cabinet," tweeted Jason Greenblatt, assistant to US President Donald Trump and special representative for international negotiations.

"With the experience of those on the list, we hope we will be able to work together toward peace and improving Palestinian lives. It's time for a new chapter."

Several key positions, such as foreign minister and finance minister, were unchanged from the previous administration of Rami Hamdallah.

The ministers were sworn in for a second time on Sunday after a lawyer noticed that the oath they took the day before had been missing a phrase.

Analysts say the change of government was made to further isolate Hamas. The party has been at odds with the Fatah Party of Abbas and Shtayyeh for more than a decade.

In a statement late Saturday, Abbas confirmed the new government and welcomed the cabinet. It includes many of his longtime allies and members of Fatah, though several smaller factions are also represented.

Other parties, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), refused to take part, calling for a unity government of all factions including Hamas.

'Dead on arrival'

The new cabinet comes as the Trump administration is expected to finally publish a long-delayed peace plan. The contents remain closely guarded, but Palestinians have reason to fear it will be skewed toward Israel.

Since coming to power, Trump has proven to be perhaps the most pro-Israel American president in history, breaking with decades of international consensus to recognise Jerusalem as the country's capital and Israel's control over the Golan Heights.

The peace plan is being developed by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose close family ties to Netanyahu have heightened Palestinian suspicions over whether the US administration can serve as an honest broker.

US officials have only revealed vague outlines of what the plan might propose, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested it could break abruptly with precedent.

Analysts say the deal may be "dead on arrival". Emile Nakhleh, a Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at University of New Mexico, told The New Arab this is "because it is not expected to address the lifting of the Israeli occupation or the affirmation of Palestinian sovereignty".

Former government minister Shtayyeh has been part of a number of Palestinian negotiating teams in US-brokered talks with Israel.

Shtayyeh was charged by Abbas to form a new government on 10 March. His new government replaces a technocratic administration which had the nominal backing of Hamas and all other Palestinian factions.

Palestinian politics has been effectively frozen since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a 2007 near-civil war, a year after winning parliamentary elections. Multiple reconciliation attempts have failed.

Hamas has criticised the formation of the new government, accusing Fatah of a power grab.

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