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New Palestinian prime minister submits resignation after two weeks

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has submitted his resignation after two weeks on the job.

AP/File

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has submitted his resignation after two weeks on the job.

JERUSALEM — The new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Rami Hamdallah, submitted his resignation Thursday after only two weeks in office, a signal of continuing internal political disarray amid complicated U.S. efforts to restart the peace process with Israel.

It was not immediately clear whether the president of the authority, Mahmoud Abbas, would accept the resignation, and experts said it was primarily a domestic issue that would not directly impinge on Abbas’ ability to make decisions regarding U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace mission.

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But analysts also said the image of chronic political instability could undercut crucial international support for the Palestinians, both financial and political, at a time when they are supposed to be pushing for statehood.

“We see that there is a state of confusion,” said Zakaria al-Qaq, an expert in national security at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. “This Cabinet was still receiving congratulations. Now, I think, it is facing the harsh realities.”

“Image is very important,” al-Qaq added, suggesting that the lack of political clarity or of a cohesive Palestinian government could even give Kerry cause — or a pretext — to delay his so far unsuccessful efforts.

Kerry is expected back in the Middle East this month for a fifth visit in his quest to revive peace talks. Differences within the Israeli government over the Palestinian question have been on stark display in the past two weeks, adding to a sense that Kerry’s mission was approaching a decisive point. Any breakthrough between the Israeli and Palestinian sides has remained elusive, with each pointing the finger at the other.

International confidence in the Palestinian Authority was shaken when the previous prime minister, Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected economist, resigned in April. Fayyad remained in office as a caretaker while Abbas worked to find a replacement.

Hamdallah, who was sworn in June 6, was formerly the president of a large West Bank university with no previous experience in government. A Palestinian official said Hamdallah had submitted his resignation because of a conflict over his authority and responsibilities.

Palestinian insiders said Hamdallah’s problem seemed to lie in his relations with the two deputy prime ministers whom Abbas appointed at the same time. Both men are viewed as close to the president: Mohammad Mustafa, the former chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, who was given special responsibility for the economy; and Ziad Abu Amr, a legislator and former foreign minister.

“The troika did not work in the Soviet Union,” al-Qaq said, “and it won’t work in Palestine.”

Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Bir Zeit University in the West Bank and a former Palestinian government spokesman, said Fayyad’s resignation and replacement was accepted by the outside world.

“But,” he added, “to have this resignation so soon is very bad for stability and consequently for the ability of the Palestinian Authority to continue getting the necessary financial and political support for the peace process in the international arena.”

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