Less than a month after he was sworn in, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Thursday abruptly submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas.
PA officials in Ramallah said Abbas would decide in the coming hours whether to accept the resignation.
Hamdallah, who until recently was president of An- Najah University in Nablus, offered his resignation even though Palestinians were still publishing advertisements in the media congratulating him and his new ministers.
A source close to Hamdallah said he submitted his letter of resignation to Hussein al- A’raj, director of the PA president’s bureau.
The source attributed the move to a power struggle between Hamdallah and his two deputies – Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr – who were appointed by Abbas.
“The prime minister feels that his deputies have been encroaching on his powers,” the source said.
After submitting his resignation Hamdallah left his office in Ramallah alone and drove in his private car to his home in the village of Anabta, east of Tulkarm.
A senior PA official told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency that Hamdallah had not clashed with Abbas. The real dispute was between Hamdallah and his two deputies, the official said.
On Thursday evening, senior PA officials headed from Ramallah to Hamdallah’s home to persuade him to withdraw his resignation.
Another PA source said that Hamdallah, whom Abbas appointed on June 2, quickly found himself in the same situation as his predecessor Salam Fayyad.
“Hamdallah discovered that the Palestinian Authority president wants him to serve as a yes-man with no powers,” the source explained. “Abbas wanted a prime minister who would play no role and only carry out orders from the president’s office.”
Abbas’s decision to appoint two deputy prime ministers with expanded powers to the new government was the first sign of the PA president’s intention to curtail the powers of Hamdallah.
Some Palestinians pointed out that the real prime minister was Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Mustafa, who also serves as the director of the PLO’s Palestine Investment Fund.
Mustafa was initially reported to be Abbas’s favored candidate to replace Fayyad. It remains unclear why Abbas finally preferred Hamdallah over Mustafa.
“Hamdallah quit because he was lacking any authority,” said Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri. “He discovered that he was just another employee with the rank of prime minister. He had two deputies who were in charge of the political and economic portfolios.”
Masri said the swift resignation was an indication of the deep crisis plaguing the PA’s political system.
Muhammad Dahlan, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a former PA security commander, said he was not surprised by Hamdallah’s decision to resign.
Dahlan, often described as an arch-enemy of Abbas, said the resignation showed that the PA leadership in Ramallah was determined to “reproduce the same mistakes.”
Dahlan predicted that any new prime minister would also fail as long as Abbas refused to share powers with anyone.