The political drama surrounding the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah continued over the weekend, with conflicting reports that he might have rescinded his resignation. However, by the end of the day, Hamdallah made it clear he would not stay on the job.
On Saturday, Palestinian officials said Hamdallah had rescinded his resignation, handed in last week, following talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. However, on Sunday, Abbas' spokesman said the president had accepted Hamdallah's offer to resign, which would take effect after his replacement is appointed.
Top Palestinian officials say that when then-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered his resignation in April, Abbas wanted to name Mohammad Mustafa, a tycoon who heads the Palestinian Investment Fund, as his successor. Abbas settled on Hamdallah, the president of An-Najah National University in Nablus, because of Mustafa's alleged corruption. Mustafa was later appointed as Hamdallah's deputy.
Abbas has apparently tried to shift some of Hamdallah's responsibilities to his deputies and Hamdallah, who vehemently rejected this proposition, tendered his resignation on Thursday.
According to one PA official, Hamdallah was so angry that he left his car at Abbas' compound after handing him the letter of resignation and walked home by himself.
"The situation in this country forced me to resign," Hamdallah tweeted on Sunday. "Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform."
A senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom on Sunday that Abbas would like to name Mohammed Shatiye, a prominent member of the Fatah Central Committee, as Hamdallah's successor. The official stressed that Shatiye had not been offered the job, but he had been approached.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit the Palestinian Authority and Israel on Thursday, in what will be his fourth visit assuming his post in February.
Senior Israeli officials say that while Israel has welcomed Kerry's initiatives to jump-start talks, the Palestinians have so far been unwilling to return to the negotiating table. Abbas would like Israel to declare a settlement moratorium in Judea and Samaria and to have the 1967 lines serve as a basis for talks before he resumes negotiations. He has also demanded that Israel release Palestinian terrorists, some of them convicted of deadly attacks.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office say the U.S. and Israel both want to have direct talks resume without preconditions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently reiterated his view that he would be willing to meet Abbas without delay and renew the talks. This, he hopes, would impose more pressure on the Palestinian president.