RAMALLAH, West Bank — President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a Palestinian unity government Monday, taking a major step toward ending a crippling split with his Hamas rivals, but also setting the stage for new friction with Israel and possibly with the West.
The brief ceremony at Abbas' West Bank headquarters was preceded by last-minute haggling over the 17-member Cabinet of technocrats, including three from Gaza who were prevented by Israel from attending, highlighting the volatile nature of the new alliance between the long-time foes.
Israeli leaders immediately condemned Abbas' alliance with Hamas. And while none of the Cabinet members is believed to be affiliated with Hamas, it remained unclear whether the U.S. and Europe will accept the new government.
Still, Abbas was upbeat about prospects for ending the territorial and political rift that broke out when the Islamic militant Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from him in 2007, leaving him only with the autonomous areas of the West Bank. For seven years, the rivals ran separate governments in their respective territories.
"This black page in our history has been turned forever and will never come back," he said before presiding over the Cabinet's first meeting.
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