by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA/RAMALLAH, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Rival Palestinian factions Islamic Hamas movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah Party on Monday ended more than seven years of internal division and formed first ever interim unity technocrats' government.
After resolving disagreements between the two groups on foreign affairs and prisoners' affairs portfolios in the last moment, the 17 ministers, members of the unity government, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, were sworn in before Abbas in the city of Ramallah.
Observers said that Abbas as well as Hamas and Fatah officials showed an overwhelming flexibility towards forming the unity government after they agreed to overcome all their differences emerged during the talks on forming the new government.
"The internal division is now part of the past, and it is behind our backs. The new government begins working today and will gain the confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) or parliament within 30 days," Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told Xinhua.
Ismail Haneya, the former premier of Hamas, which ruled Gaza Strip, since the movement violently seized control of the enclave in June 2007, said in a televised speech that he apologizes to the Palestinians, and "we are happy for this historic achievement that ended division and formed a government."
Haneya said in the last moment Fatah and Hamas ended their dispute when they agreed to handle the ministry of prisoners' affairs to the new minister of agriculture and social welfare Shawqi al-Eyassah, adding "this government is the government of the Palestinian people and we will cooperate with it."
President Abbas meanwhile said in a televised speech right after the new government was sworn in "Today, we announce that we have restored national unity, the unity of the homeland and its institutions. The internal division has gone once and forever."
Right after the swearing-in was over, Haneya spoke with Abbas on the phone and explained to Abbas that he and Hamas movement are glad that the government was finally formed and that he and the leadership of Hamas will cooperate in the future with the new government.
Abbas affirmed that the unity government is an interim government for six months, and it will mainly focus on serving the Palestinian people as well as preparing for future general elections supposed to be held in six months.
He stressed that the new government will be "Like the previous Palestinian governments, this one is committed to previous agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)," Abbas said, reiterating that the PLO, the sole representative of the Palestinians.
He also applauded the supportive stances of the Arab countries which pledged to continue supporting the Palestinian people and their new government. "We also appreciate the constructive stances of Europe, Russia and the positive notions of the U.S. towards the Palestinian reconciliation."
Abbas also pledged to respond to any Israeli actions that might hurt the Palestinian interests. "We are not seeking an escalation with Israel, but we will not stay cross-handed at Israel's punitive measure. We will respond diplomatically and politically," he said.
Meanwhile, Akram Atallah, a political columnist in al-Ayyam daily and a political analyst told Xinhua that "The new government looks very much similar to the previous one that was chaired by PM Hamdallah. I see nothing has changed except replacing faces of ministers."
However, Atallah expected that there will be no problem for the international community, Europe and the United States in dealing in the future with the new unity government, adding "but the problem is with Israel, which wants the division to go on in order to escape from any future commitments to peace."
Haneya, meanwhile, said in his farewell speech, aired on Hamas television of al-Aqsa that his government is leaving and his ministers will hand over power and ministries to the new ministers, adding "Hamas leaders will cooperate with the new ministers to face the coming challenges.
"The new government has many challenges in ending the siege that is still imposed on the Gaza Strip, and also preparing for holding the general elections, reconstructing the Gaza Strip and achieve full social reconciliation among the Palestinian people," said Haneya.