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story.lead_photo.caption Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Ishtayeh talks during a swearing in of the new government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, April 13, 2019.(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- A new government for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority was sworn in Saturday, led by a veteran peace negotiator and critic of Gaza's Hamas rulers.

President Mahmoud Abbas picked Mohammed Ishtayeh as prime minister, a move that deepens the internal Palestinian divide at a time when prospects for a peace deal with Israel are at a low point.

A longtime adviser to Abbas and a senior member of his Fatah party, Ishtayeh and his 24-member Cabinet took the oath of office at Abbas' headquarters in Ramallah.

Ishtayeh faces challenges, with the Palestinian Authority in a deep financial crisis after U.S. sanctions and Israel's decision to withhold $138 million in tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Israelis said they slashed money the Palestinians had designated for families of those who carried out attacks against Israel.

The new Cabinet replaces a technocratic government formed by Rami Hamdallah in 2014 after an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has run the Gaza Strip after ousting Fatah and evicting the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Despite Egyptian efforts, the attempt at a unity government failed to reconcile the two groups.

Abbas' decision to fire Hamdallah and assign Ishtayeh, a British-educated economist, to lead the next government reflects his frustration over the narrowing chances of a Palestinian unity accord.

Hamas accused Abbas of acting unilaterally, saying in a statement Saturday that swearing in a "separatist" government "boosts the division between Gaza and the West Bank as a practical step to implement the 'deal of the century,'" the name the Palestinians use to refer to the undisclosed U.S. peace plan.

In a meeting with members of the new Cabinet, Abbas, 83, called on them to continue "to fight the [Israeli] occupation with all legal means," referring to United Nations organizations, as well as through "peaceful popular resistance." He said Israel should bear the "consequences" if it does not withdraw from territories it occupied since the 1967 Mideast war.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.'s Middle East envoy, said he hoped the new government would receive support "to overcome internal divisions."

Last year, President Donald Trump's administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, prompting the Palestinian Authority to sever its ties with Washington.

Peace talks with Israel ran aground years ago, and Trump's administration is seen as likely to put forward a peace plan that the Palestinians say favors Israel. The Palestinian leadership fears that Israel would retain major Jewish settlements in the West Bank and that the seat of the future Palestinian state would be in Gaza instead.

Ishtayeh's government, which controls the parts of the West Bank on which the Palestinian Authority has autonomy, doesn't feature significant changes from its predecessor. Five members, including the leaders in foreign affairs and finance, retained their posts. Ishtayeh holds the interior and religious portfolios.

The Palestinian government runs day-to-day affairs while Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, which he also leads, manage the political decision-making.

Ishtayeh, 61, had been a minister in previous governments. He was also a member of the Palestinian negotiating team.

Information for this article was contributed by Fares Akram of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Palestinians' new government sworn in


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