Abbas's forms 'caretaker' government

According to a report issued by the Palestinian National Information Centre (PNIC), during the month of June, Israel occupation forces killed 49 Palestinians and wounded a further 147. During the same period, Israel abducted and arrested 383 Palestinians and carried out 765 invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and committed a total of 2380 human rights violations against the civilian Palestinian population.

The report came as Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas re-installed the unelected PA "emergency" government headed by Palestinian-American Salam Fayyad. On July 13, Fayyad formally resigned, only to be immediately sworn back in by Abbas as head of a "caretaker" government in an attempt to bypass the Palestinian Basic Law.

According to Article 110 of the Basic Law, a state of emergency may only exist for 30 days and may only be extended if the president gains approval from two-thirds of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The PLC, however, has not been able to achieve quorum due to over half of Hamas's parliamentarians being abducted by Israeli forces over the past year. In addition, Fatah has boycotted two scheduled PLC meetings, and Hamas refused to attend a PLC session called by Abbas. As a result, there has been no PLC approval, as required under Palestinian Law, for any new administration, the state of emergency, its extension or a string of controversial presidential decrees issued by Abbas during the period.

On July 8, Anis al Qasem, one of the Palestinian lawyers who drafted the Basic Law accused Abbas of "destroying the foundation on which the Basic Law is laid", saying there are no provisions for an "emergency", "interim" or "caretaker" government to exist. Speaking to Reuters, al Qasem stated that under Palestinian law, until an administration gains the approval of the PLC as outlined in Chapter 5 of the Basic Law, "the dismissed government [in this case, Hamas's] continues to act as a caretaker government". According to al Qasem, "The Basic Law contains no special provisions for what is sometimes called 'emergency government'".

Despite this, Abbas, backed by Israel and the US, has attempted to legitimate Fayyad and his unelected cabinet by designating him the leader of a "caretaker" government. On July 18, Abbas stated he would call early presidential and legislative elections, despite there being no provisions in the Basic Law allowing him to do so.

A July 2-12 poll conducted by the Norwegian Labour and Research Institute (Fafo) found that only 37% of Palestinians think that the "emergency government" decreed by Abbas was legitimate; only 28% believe that the dismissal of the Hamas government led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was legitimate. Thirty-five per cent believed that neither government was legitimate. The poll also revealed that the majority of Palestinians see national reconciliation as more important than peace talks with Israel, with 85% of poll participants saying they would like to see negotiations between Fatah and Hamas.

In an attempt to bolster Abbas, Israel issued a list of 256 Fatah aligned Palestinian political prisoners, which it released as part of a package of "good will" gestures. The prisoner list, issued by Israel on July 17, was drawn up unilaterally without any Palestinian input. According to a statement by the Israel Prison Service, of those on the list "61 prisoners have served more than two thirds of their sentence, 93 prisoners have served over a half but less than two thirds of their sentence and 102 prisoners have served over a third but less than half of their sentence".

In addition, Israel has granted "amnesty" to more than 180 member of the Fatah-aligned Al Aqsa Brigades on the condition that that they abandon armed struggle against Israel. According to a July 14 Ha'aretz report, as part of the deal, Al Aqsa Brigade members will hand over their weapons to the Palestinian Authority and sign forms declaring they will cease their resistance activities and become integrated in the Palestinian security forces run by Abbas. In return, they "will be allowed to leave the territory under full Palestinian control, known as Area A, and be able to travel abroad". Head of the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, Zakaria Zubeidi, confirmed to Palestinian media on July 15 that "Al Aqsa Brigade activists have signed a pledge to cease attacks on Israel".

Hamas denounced the decision by Fatah and the Al Aqsa Bridges. The Ma'an news agency reported that Hamas said "the resistance is a national project that will accomplish the Palestinian national goals", so there should be "no negotiations about the resistance or giving up the weapons". A Hamas spokesperson stated that "the occupation has no right to release such a list, as our fighters are not a bunch of criminals who need this fake forgiveness".

Other Palestinian resistance factions, including Al Quds Brigades (Islamic Jihad), the An Nasser Salah Addin Brigades (Popular Resistance Committees) and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) rejected the deal and have refused to abandon armed struggle against the Israeli occupation — a right under international law.

Islamic Jihad announced it would only accept a ceasefire in return for Israeli occupation forces agreeing to stop their violence against Palestinian civilians and members of the resistance. Similarly, the An Nasser Brigades told Ma'an News on July 15 that "the Israeli decision aims to overthrow the Palestinian movements and criminalise their members, who will need permission to live in their own town" but "such decisions won't force the Palestinians to stop their resistance against Israel".

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